Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Kids' Summer Reading Reviews: "Penny Dreadful"

"Penny Dreadful" by Laurel Snyder
2 out of 5 stars
grade level: 4th-7th??

I wasn't blown away by this author's first book, but gave her second book a chance anyway. The writing has not improved, and neither has the plot. I think I'm done with this author for multiple reasons.

Synopsis: Penelope is an only child in a well-to-do family. Her life is boring and she makes a wish for excitement - any kind of excitement. Her father, the president of a prosperous company, comes home one day to annouce he's quit his job...and wants to write a book. For several weeks he shuffles about in a bathrobe while the family's finances go from bad to worse. In fact, they're broke, and the parents end up stressing and fighting about this. Penelope is a confused and worried on-looker, wondering if this is really the excitement she wished for.

Their fortunes change when the mom receives word that she's inherited a house in a rural community. They put their mansion up for rent and move to the sticks, hoping for a change in fortune. Turns out they inherited a ton of debt as well; money worries multiply. Their "house" is actually a run-down conglomeration of houses all built onto each other, and according to the will, the tenants get to live there rent-free. Penelope changes her frou-frou name after being teased and befriends a loud-mouthed girl who is not ashamed of being dirty or poor. Several other friends surface, all of whom have issues of one sort, but they're content to change what they can and live with what they can't.

A hair-brained spelunking scheme to search for a legendary lost treasures turns up to be a bust, and Penny worries that her family - and the other families in the housing complex - will be evicted. In a last-minute turn of events, the other families ante up whatever they can to cover the current month's debt payment, and then they have a potluck picnic. The End.

To keep myself from ranting why I did NOT like this book, let me list a few reasons, rapid-fire:
1. horrid family relationships, children are disconnected/out of touch with their parents
2. the theme of money issues as presented is too deep/complex for kids to relate to
3. the author tosses in a very-pregnant mom who refers to Jenny, her "wife" - either kids will catch on that this is a lesbian relationship or they will be totally confused. This served no purpose in the story at all and is just yuck.
4. The only 2 dads in the story are weak leaders/self-absorbed or paranoid/over-controlling/clueless.
5. I felt like the focus of the plot changed about 3 times - and nothing was really resolved

This book was not even fun to read - tons of worry, hurt feelings, misunderstandings, sad parents, disappointments. I know there are kids who could relate to some aspects of the book, but overall it seemed like the author muddled and lost control of the plot by trying to make her story as politically correct as possible - which only adults get.

What I did like:
1. The illustrations were well done and lively.
2. the main character was not afraid to make friends with people unlike herself

Next I'll be reading a new historical fiction about John Calvin- by Douglas Bond. My brain needs something solid after this!

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