cover image Dear Sweet Pea

Dear Sweet Pea

Julie Murphy. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-0624-7307-3

Seventh grader Patricia “Sweet Pea” DiMarco contends with her parents’ divorce, shifting friendships, and newfound self-awareness in this praiseworthy middle grade debut from YA author Murphy (Dumplin’). Along with Cheese, her “fifteen-pound orange tabby,” Sweet Pea shuttles between her family’s original house in Valentine, Tex., where her mother still lives, and the nearly identical home two doors down, where her father now resides, unsettled and frustrated by her parents’ split and her dad’s recent coming out. Recruited by her neighbor, eccentric local advice columnist Miss Flora Mae, to manage her mail while she’s out of town, Sweet Pea recognizes the handwriting on one letter and can’t stop herself from opening—and responding to—some of the others, throwing her friendships into disarray as she navigates the line between right and wrong. As with her books for older readers, Murphy creates a richly imagined protagonist who shines in her strength, humor, and self-confidence; Sweet Pea is also plus-size by today’s standards and is accepting and unashamed of her body. With gentle humor, ageless wisdom, and charming, genuine characters who represent a diversity of experiences, Murphy’s novel offers all the emotional highs and lows of pitch-perfect middle grade. Ages 8–12. [em](Oct.) [/em]