From the Publisher
“Knowles has perfectly told an intriguing story of dysfunctional characters who cannot, will not, or are unable to communicate because of fear...fear of learning the truth, fear of hurting others, fear of losing love.” VOYA
“…the story […] funnels family oddities, secrets, and personal melodrama into eventual respect for family differences.” School Library Journal
Children's Literature - Shirley Nelson
Fifteen-year old Bean lives in a rundown neighborhood with her mother, Lexie, and grandfather, Gus. Her only friend is Henry who lives with his very overweight mother, Sally, who stays in her house eating Doritos and watching soap operas all day. Gus still criticizes Lexie for ruining her life at age fifteen when she became pregnant. Bean loves Gus but does not understand the animosity he has toward her mother. Then one day, Gus is gone. He died in the night and everything changes. Pearl misses her grandfather and regrets not having shared her feelings with him. Lexie, on the other hand, seems almost giddy as she plans the funeral. Her friend Claire moves in and acts as a part of the family. Even Sally leaves her house and joins Lexie and Claire in their juvenile behavior. Bean begins to question the relationships she has with both Lexie and Henry. This coming-of-age novel will tug at the hearts of readers. Reviewer: Shirley Nelson
VOYA - Jane Van Wiemokly
Pearl, aka Bean, lives with her mom, Lexie, and grandfather, Gus. Lexie had Bean at age fifteen. Bean and Henry, best and only friends of many years, have much in common: both are misfit fifteen-year-olds who only seem to need each other, raised by single mothers, and both want to know more about their fathers. Henry's mom, Sally, is an obese, soap opera addict who has not left her house since Henry's father deserted them. Lexie is a waitress who spends most of her time at work or socializing with her friend Claire. Gus loves Bean, but he and daughter Lexie fight all the time. When Gus dies unexpectedly, many revelatory secrets are brought to light that impact Bean's relationship with Lexie, Gus, Sally, Claire, and especially Henry. Knowles has perfectly told an intriguing story of dysfunctional characters who cannot, will not, or are unable to communicate because of fear...fear of learning the truth, fear of hurting others, fear of losing love. Lexie and Claire are lovers, once caught together many years ago by Gus. Bean must come to grips with the Gus who loved her and the Gus who treated his daughter badly. After his death, Claire essentially moves in, and still Lexie cannot tell Bean. Bean is actually very understanding, but feels betrayed by not being told the truth sooner. Even with much drama, Bean's and Henry's wonderful, innocent friendship shines through. Knowles has captured the comfort they are to each other and their knowledge that there is more to come in their lives. Reviewer: Jane Van Wiemokly
School Library Journal
Gr 6–9—Twelve-year-old Pearl, known as Bean, is unsettled: What is going on in her house? Gus, her grandpa, adores her and is the only father figure she knows, but he and her mother avoid each other. She escapes the underlying stress of her home by visiting her buddy, Henry, and his shut-in mother, Sally. They cozy up on the couch, watch soaps operas, and munch on Doritos. Henry's dad left when he was a baby and Henry has no more of an idea of who his father is than Bean has of hers. Bit by bit, the two friends puzzle out the secrets of their covered-up backgrounds. They are horrified when connecting the dots suggests that they may have the same father. When Gus dies suddenly, Bean's mom seems more relieved than grieved. Her best friend moves in and they behave like giggling schoolgirls. The unfolding reality that she is gay is not much of a surprise, except to Bean. Bean and Henry are likable characters. However, while there's drama in their lives, there's not much action in the book. The pointed tension created through Bean's mom and grandpa's misunderstandings and misconceptions is weak and unconvincing. The appeal of the story is that it funnels family oddities, secrets, and personal melodrama into eventual respect for family differences.—Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY
A touching family melodrama about the corrosive nature of secrets and the cleansing power of honesty.
Fifteen-year-old Pearl, known only as Bean, has her peculiar family figured out: Her mom, Lexie, is an emotionally distant but highly functioning alcoholic, while grandfather Gus is loving, gentle and ever-present. Bean and her lifelong best friend, Henry, both fatherless fans ofDays of Our Lives, imagine grandly soap-operatic scenarios for their respective missing dads, though they both pine for the simplest information about them. Bean's years of eavesdropping have gleaned just three key words: attacked, pregnant, Bill. When Gus dies suddenly, Bean grieves deeply, while Lexie is liberated: She dyes her hair and gossips late into the night with her best friend Claire and Henry's reclusive mother, Sally. When Bean accidentally discovers that Lexie has a whopper of a secret and that her family's emotional landscape is more complicated than she dreamed, the news sends shockwaves through her familyandHenry's. Can Bean reconcile her memories of Gus with Lexie's experiences? Are Henry and Bean's gothic fantasies truer than they had imagined?
Knowles' fine ear for dialogue and her sensitive, nuanced portrayal of ordinary people's mishandling of complex situations allow her to play with soap-opera conventions without being crushed under their clichéd weight.(Fiction. 12 & up)