Friday, 8 February 2013

Review: Ten Good and Bad Things About My Life (So Far) by Ann M. Martin

Pearl Littlefield’s first assignment in fifth grade is complicated: She has to write an essay about her summer. Where does she begin? Her dad lost his job, she had to go to a different camp—one where her older sister Lexie was a counselor-in-training (ugh!)—and she and her good friend James Brubaker III had a huge fight, which made them both wonder if the other kids were right that girls and boys can’t be good friends and which landed one of them in the hospital. 

And there’s much, much more on the list of good and bad things, as Ann Martin takes this appealing character into new adventures through which young readers will see that good or bad, life is what happens when you’re making other plans. (Feiwel & Friends, October 2012)

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars (Very Good)

My only major complaint about this book would have to be that the title really doesn't relate to the book. Although Pearl does discuss good and bad things about her life, the book focuses on a single summer - not her entire life - and the phrase in the title never comes up in the novel, as the title of the first book did. Other than that, this book was a wonderful sequel to Ten Rules for Living with My Sister, with a slightly more mature Pearl who has a better understanding of the world and the dynamics in her own family. 

I think a lot of preteens will be able to relate to Pearl's struggles with being old enough to see the problems her family is facing, but not being old enough to help out, as her teenage sister can. I could see how Pearl had matured from the last book, but she still had some little quirks and mannerisms that made me realise how young Pearl still is. I think Ann M. Martin accurately captured the way that ten year olds speak and think, and there were many phrases that made me want to laugh out loud. Others weren't so funny, but were still touching, like when Pearl's father loses his job and the first thing Pearl wonders is whether this means he'll have more time to play Boggle with her. She understands what losing his job will mean for the family and their finances, but as a child she's still happy that her dad will be around more to play games. This section of the book, and many others, felt so honest and realistic. 

As in the first book, I loved the dynamics between Pearl and Lexie, and although they weren't quite as amusing as in the prequel, it was touching to see Pearl comforting Lexie when her boyfriend broke up with her and Lexie protecting Pearl from bullies at camp. I don't have a sister, but the presentation of their relationship seemed fairly realistic. 

I loved the way that Pearl's love of art was continued from the first book, but developed out of making posters for her door into designing her own notecards and stationary. I often wonder how many kids can really relate to all the sewing and knitting in Ann M. Martin's Main Street series, but general art is something that I imagine more kids enjoy doing. 

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. When I finished Ten Rules for Living with My Sister I had immediately wished that Ann would write a sequel, but I didn't imagine it would happen. I stumbled across this book on Amazon purely by accident about a week before the novel was due to release and it was a lovely surprise to learn that I could read more about Pearl and Lexie. Obviously these books have been a big success. Publishers Weekly described Pearl and Lexie as a modern-day version of Ramona and Beezus, and perhaps that is part of the reason why I like these books so much. I'm so glad that Ann M. Martin is continuing to write children's books. Having grown up with the Baby-Sitters Club books, I hope that Pearl and Lexie and the Main Street books will appeal to my daughters, if I have any. But who knows, maybe Ann will have another series by the time my kids are old enough to read chapter books? Highly recommended to girls aged 8 - 10. And I'm sure plenty of adults will enjoy Pearl's antics as much as I did. 

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