The first middle grade novel from Julie Murphy, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dumplin’ (now a popular Netflix film), is a funny, heartwarming story perfect for fans of Rebecca Stead, Ali Benjamin, and Holly Goldberg Sloan.
Patricia “Sweet Pea” DiMarco wasn’t sure what to expect when her parents announced they were getting a divorce. She never could have imagined that they would have the “brilliant” idea of living in nearly identical houses on the same street. In the one house between them lives their eccentric neighbor Miss Flora Mae, the famed local advice columnist behind “Miss Flora Mae I?”
Dividing her time between two homes is not easy. And it doesn’t help that at school, Sweet Pea is now sitting right next to her ex–best friend, Kiera, a daily reminder of the friendship that once was. Things might be unbearable if Sweet Pea didn’t have Oscar—her new best friend—and her fifteen-pound cat, Cheese.
Then one day Flora leaves for a trip and asks Sweet Pea to forward her the letters for the column. And Sweet Pea happens to recognize the handwriting on one of the envelopes.
What she decides to do with that letter sets off a chain of events that will forever change the lives of Sweet Pea DiMarco, her family, and many of the readers of “Miss Flora Mae I?”
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Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
Sweet Pea is a seventh grader trying to figure out life. She’s living in mirror houses since her parents divorced. They have two houses next to each other, made to be identical so the transition is easier. But life is not easier for her. She’s trying to figure out how to deal with the divorce, embrace being fat, losing her old best friend, and how to keep her new best friend, Oscar. There’s so many life changes occurring for the thirteen year old, she may need to get some advice from the town columnist, Miss Flora Mae.
Then Miss Flora Mae leaves town and asks Sweet Pea to send her the letters and send them back to the newspaper. But it has to be a secret. That seems easy, right? Until she decides she’s going to respond as Miss Flora Mae…which makes her life even more complicated since now she’s keeping more secrets.
I love this book. Julie Murphy is usually a hit or miss author for me in regards to YA, but I was so excited for her middle grade novel. And I am so glad I snagged this from the library.
It’s so adorable. It’s so amazing. It’s so real. Sweet Pea is an honest protagonist many tweens will be able to relate to. Divorce is hard on children… this could be so good for a middle grade student trying to make sense of life changing after a parents divorce because even Sweet Pea is trying to work through it and having that to relate to can be so useful.
As is losing friends and trying to fix old friendships… this is a universal experience, but it can be so hard in middle school when so many things are happening and you don’t know who you are. Friendship is so important and how Sweet Pea works on her friendship with Oscar and repairs an old one is so lovely.
Or even learning to embrace fat as a positive aspect of one’s self, like Sweet Pea does. She struggles with her weight when she can’t find a dress she wants in her size or she’s not able to wear many clothes in the juniors department. Her parents remain positive role models for healthy body imagery and try to show her she’s wonderful how she is. This is most arduously a message tweens can use today.
Sweet Peas dad is gay, but it’s normal. Of course it’s normal. But the book doesn’t make it like a big deal or something to reflect on. It’s just what it is. The end. I want this more in middle grade and all books. Being gay or part of the LGBTQIA+ community is normal. Let’s just stop acting like it’s not and put it in books so tweens don’t feel so alone, whether they have a parent or they themselves are part of the community. This is so fantastically done, and I need more of this in books too.
I just want Julie Murphy to write a bunch of middle grade I can devour and recommend to future tweens I’ll meet or already know.
This book covers so many topics beautifully, I can’t recommend it enough.