Favorite series and characters come to the fore this season. The three one-of-a-kind Georgia girls who converged at Darlington Orchard during picking season in Peaches (which PW's starred review called "a novel about broken hearts, broken spirits, and the healing power of friendship") return for The Secrets of Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson, which picks up in the autumn, just where the first book left off. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Janice DeLong
Readers may have met Murphy, Ledda, and Birdie in Peaches, the first book of this series, and if so, already know of the family connections and the overriding importance of the peach orchard. For the audience who is just now making the acquaintance of the trio, Ledda and Birdie are cousins; Murphy is the renegade, not only of the three friends, but of the entire small Georgia town. In this sequel, each of the girls is facing complex family relationships and the angst of leaving home, or not, after high school graduation. With ineffective mothers and practically invisible fathers, the trio provides strength, support, and physical presence for each other when it is most needed. Rex and Enrico make their appearances again with Murphy and Birdie torn between romance and accepting adult roles otherwise expected of them. First time sexual encounters for one, and yet another intimate encounter for the other creates scenes that are appropriate for mature audiences only. This is a novel of peers advising peers, with no adult who can be trusted for support or stabilization. Characterization is the strong point, as each chapter changes voice. There are also some delightful nature descriptions, with the peach orchard serving as a presence in its own right. Although many aspects of the novel effectively portray Southern culture, there are come inaccurate biblical allusions which could benefit from another swing through the Bible Belt, or not be used at all.
VOYA - Lisa A. Hazlett
Murphy, Leeda, and Birdie are beginning their senior year after their summer at Georgia's Darlington Peach Orchard in this Peaches (HarperCollins, 2005/VOYA February 2006) sequel. Murphy is assuming NYU acceptance, but her shocking deferred admittance makes her realize that her bad-girl behaviors are hindering her new goals. Her boyfriend wants marriage and to remain in town, but Murphy is equally adamant about leaving. Leeda desires a better relationship with her neglectful mother, especially after hearing hints of a serious illness. She grudgingly serves as Pecan Queen, but her mother skips the all-important parade. Discovering that the illness is only a ruse for acquiescence, Leeda is emotionally crushed and hospitalized. Sheltered Birdie, whose family owns Darlington, simply wants life unchanged. Although trying to assist Murphy and Leeda while needing their friendship herself is upsetting, Birdie's main concern is boyfriend Enrico, with whom she has sex. Afterward Birdie longs to revert to her problem-free childhood-but becoming a woman with a loving partner is equally attractive, causing additional angst. As with the first book, this novel features lush, intricate, and sensual descriptions and lyrical scenes, but without its predecessor's wordiness and repetition. Chapters usually center on one character and feature her perspective regarding the others, providing multiple views and interpretations of the complicated problems encountered. These likeable, strong girls face realistic situations but retain uniqueness by making thoughtful, often painful decisions based on their needs. Mature females wishing a refreshing alternative to tidy, happy endings will enjoy this engagingnovel.
KLIATT - Stephanie Squicciarini
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, January 2007: Birdie, Murphy, and Leeda are back in this sequel to Anderson's debut novel, Peaches. Picking up where Peaches ends, readers follow these three friends as they deal with life, love, and family dynamics. Even though the orchard is dormant in its growing cycle, it remains a strong character in the story, and the girls are each emotionally tied to it in some way. Murphy is torn between wanting to get out of their small town but also feeling comforted by the love and friendship discovered there; Leeda continues to struggle with her difficult relationship with her mother; and Birdie feels emotionally and physically tied to the orchard while experiencing bubbling desires to know and understand life beyond it. Anderson has drawn characters who are strong but also vulnerable as they learn to battle the demons within themselves and to accept the flawed natures of those around them. Add this book to your Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants read-alike lists and to your options for girl-focused and mother-daughter book discussion groups. Reviewer: Stephanie Squicciarini
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up
In this sequel to Peaches (HarperCollins, 2005), Murphy, Birdie, and Leeda say good-bye to a summer on Birdie's family's peach orchard as the girls begin their senior year. Each teen faces a different set of growing pains. Birdie pines for her boyfriend, who's gone back to Mexico for school, and she worries that her family's housekeeper, who grew up in his town, will return home. Murphy, who dreams of moving to New York and has applied to NYU, is unable to tell her boyfriend that she loves him, although it's all he wants from her; what she wants is for him to agree to go to New York with her. Leeda's mother neglects her in favor of her sister; as their relationship grows more and more distant, the teen shuts out the rest of the world, including her friends. The novel is well paced and resolves the interwoven story lines tidily but authentically. This appealing book is as light as Cecily von Ziegesar's "Gossip Girl" series (Little, Brown), but without the glitz and snarky tone. Murphy and Birdie mature just enough to make the story optimistic but not fantastical, and Leeda's lack of growth makes her all the more believable. There are a few unclear references to the previous book, but in general the story stands on its own. A good choice for fans of Ann Brashares's "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" books (Delacorte) and similar series.
Daisy PorterCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Read an Excerpt
The Secrets of Peaches
If there was one thing Murphy McGowen had always known, it was that she would someday make it out of Bridgewater, Georgia. Among her scattered musical taste, her scattered curly hair, and her scattered past (which included clothes scattered at the edge of the lake and parts of Bob's Big Boy scattered over Route 1), planning her exit had been the one constant.That, and her long-held desire to streak MayorWise's front lawn. She just hadn't gotten to it yet.
If Murphy hadn't had a tattoo of Ringo Starr on her back already, she would have had these words from Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road" tattooed there: Two lanes can take us anywhere.
Songs of escape were written through Murphy's DNA like eye color (hers were cat green), and she had the words down exactly. The song went like this: going to NYU, majoring in music, and spending the rest of her life feeling like she'd finally landed in the right place. As fickle as Murphy could be about many things, there was never a variation on this refrain.
"Murphy, can we go?" Leeda asked. "The dogs look hungry." She nodded at Birdie's papillons, Honey Babe and Majestic, who sat on the wet bus-stop sidewalk staring at the three of them, their butterfly ears cocked expectantly. The tiny dogs appeared to be smiling—they always did when Birdie was around and when they were together. They were so attached to each other Murphy called them John and Yoko, even though they looked more like a cross between Bambi and the Muppets.
"I just fed them before we left." Birdie looked over her shoulder at Leeda, who was tugging Birdie's auburnhair into a braid. Leeda yanked it. "Oh, I mean, um, no, I didn't. They're starving." She rolled her eyes at the dogs,who smiled back.
"You're the worst liar, Birdie." Leeda dropped Birdie's braid and threw her head back despondently. She stared up through the plastic ceiling of the shelter area where they sat.The rain sent splat patterns across its surface. "I have so much studying to do."
"A week into school and you're already obsessing," Murphy observed.
"I guess." Leeda shrugged. She was on what Murphy considered a perfectionist recovery program. Leeda went for first place by default, always.
"Five more minutes. One will come. Pretty please?" Murphy looked at Leeda, who was still staring at the rain-splattered ceiling. Next she turned to Birdie and poked her on the arm, which was lying across her own warmly. Birdie was a furnace. "Please?"
"She just wants to see one more," Birdie said, fluttering her eyelashes at Leeda. "Then we can go." The thing about Birdie was she was a born ambassador. It was probably from all the time she'd spent hovering in the no-fly zone between her parents.
Murphy studied them both. Leeda looked straight out of Martha's Vineyard—all perfect cheekbones and alabaster skin with a smattering of sun-induced freckles and clothes that were totally season appropriate. Even loose and sloppy like she was today, she looked like the kind of loose and sloppy you saw in People magazine when they caught a celebrity all tired and mussed up at the airport. Birdie, on the other hand, was curved nd rosy and Renoir soft. She looked like the milk-fed farm girl that she was.
The two were second cousins but nothing alike. Leeda was straight up and down, and Birdie was as gentle and easy as the rain. Leeda had grown up wearing mostly white and exceeding everyone as the glossiest, the smilingest, and the most southern of the southern belles in Bridgewater. Birdie had grown up with dirt under her fingernails, homeschooled on the orchard, her feet planted in the earth.
Before Judge Miller Abbott sentenced Murphy to time on the orchard picking peaches that summer, Murphy had pegged Leeda for uptight and Birdie for weak. But their time together— picking peaches, sweating in the dorms at night, cooling off in the lake—had been like living the fable of her life. The lesson being that when you think you know more than you do, you end up looking like an idiot.
Murphy, mind restless, tapped her feet on the sidewalk and stared at the initials carved into the Plexiglas walls. She poked at the pack of cigarettes in her pocket, although she'd given up smoking because her boyfriend, Rex, kept telling her it was a stupid habit. She wore faded jeans that clung to her curves and a vine green T-shirt that matched her eyes. Murphy didn't have to dress sexy to look sexy. She could wear a nun's habit and still look like she needed to cover up. Murphy and Birdie let their heads rest back against the wall like Leeda's.
"It feels like somebody pushed the pause button," Birdie said. She was right. It seemed like the gray Georgia fall would never end—it would be just one long rainy afternoon after another, on into the apocalypse.
They sat in silence. "What day's graduation?" Murphy asked, her voice skating across the crackling of the raindrops. "May fifteenth? I wonder if it's too early to book my bus ticket."
"Don't say that!" Birdie said.
Murphy felt the restlessness bubble up the way it always did when she thought of all the days that stood in her way. "Do you think once I leave, if I look back, I'll turn into a pillar of salt?"
Leeda rolled her eyes. "The drama."Murphy grinned at her.
She knew the reference was backward. In the story, Saul's wife turned into a pillar of salt because she looked back over her shoulder at the reckless and rotten city behind her. But Murphy was the one who'd always been too loud, too reckless, too rotten for Bridgewater. The number of times she'd been whispered about, caught, and raked across the coals (usually because she asked for it) were too many to count. Because she couldn't keep quiet, because she couldn't contain . . . The Secrets of Peaches. Copyright © by Jodi Anderson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.