Friday, October 2, 2015

The Perfect Place by Teresa E. Harris

Treasure has more on her plate than the normal kid. Her father periodically abandons his family and she is usually left with taking care of her sister while her mom struggles to get out of bed. As of yet, her dad always comes back. However, this time, it has been longer than normal so her mother goes after him leaving Treasure and her younger sister, Tiffany with Great-Aunt Grace, a.k.a. GAG. Grace is a curmudgeon with a tender heart that doesn't reveal itself until later in the story. She's been single her whole life and doesn't quite know how to handle Treasure and Tiffany. One sasses back and the other wails. Both girls long for the "perfect place"; a permanent home to live in without a father that always moves them every few months due to his restless, meandering personality.

As the two girls adjust to Grace, Treasure makes friends with another new kid, Terrance. Treasure can't admit he is a friend, she doesn't want to become attached to anyone as she knows her "homes" are always temporary. The two are "associates" and while Treasure has a tough exterior, Terrance knows how to reach her in a nonthreatening way. Treasure is a prickly kid. She loves her younger sister and looks out for her, but with others she talks back and is sarcastic making for a strong female character that reminds me of the Gaither Sisters series by Rita Williams-Garcia or "Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere."

The characters have strong voices that are distinct from each other. Mom swears quite a bit. Grace is harsh at first and softens toward the end. Tiffany offers comic relief along with Treasure's sarcasm. Grace and her friend, Moon, can smoke up a blue streak but Grace shows she's willing to change her ways when she sees Treasure have an asthma attack. As you can see, this is not the perfect family. People lose their temper. They are disrespectful toward each other. And in the beginning everyone is plain ole' miserable about everything.

Treasure is a bright kid that loves words. So does her father. He isn't a villain in the story. It is clear that Treasure really loves him and that he loves her. This offers hope at the end when things don't go the way they want. At one point Treasure tries to remake herself by changing her name to her middle name. She doesn't want people to know that she is related to Great-Aunt Grace who is not liked by the any townspeople except Moon. This part of the story needed a little balance as Grace owns a store in town and she would have some customers she gets along with; however, every character met is up against her.

The plot has some nice twists, especially with Treasure's asthma. Other parts were slow. And other parts were funny. The woman running the Bible camp yells at Treasure, "This is Camp Jesus Saves for God's sakes!" Another fun dialogue is between Grace and Treasure: "'I wish we could stay here,' I say... / 'But you can't, because y'all don't listen,' she says. / 'You don't clean'/ 'You got a smart mouth.'/ 'You can't cook.' / 'You talk back.' / 'I kind of like you,' I say. / 'I kind of like you, too," Auntie says. 'Now, go on, git.'"

Strong character arcs show the protagonist changing in some way emotionally as well as through events that happen in the story. The author creates a strong emotionally charged character that changes throughout the story and this kept me more engaged in the narrative than the plot. I found some of the events sort of slow, but Treasure's slow acceptance of a friends and her relationship with GAG as the two bumble along like stubborn fools until they start to get along made for great tension. The asthma added more strength to the plot when the author used that as a twist. If you are looking for a realistic book that does not have the perfect family (or perfect place) then give this a go.

4 Smileys

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