Oh boy oh boy. This is the kind of book that, when you start to read it, doesn’t seem like much at all. However, once you give it a chance and really let it sink it, it’s pretty obvious that this is one of those books that could be literally life-changing for younger audiences.
AKA-this is a book tween-Maddie needed in her life, and it makes me very happy to know it exists now.
This book is about two sisters, with the young (Plum) being the center of the book. As her name may indicate, both Plum and her family are unique. And, not in the “I’m not like other girls” type of way; honestly, I don’t think they were incredibly “different” from an outside perspective, it was mostly the way they looked at the world. Their widowed mother is an artist, struggling to get by after their successful academic father passed away. The oldest sister has some severe emotional issues, which I blame on the fact she was given the burden of being a genius when her father wrote a bestselling novella about his genius daughter when she was a toddler (I mean, that would mess anybody up, genius or not). Plus is a quiet girl, content with the company of her family, pets, and books, who looks on at the social lives of those her own age with disdain (not because she is judging them, but because she feels she is an outcast from it).
The actual plot was not anything incredible; in fact, thinking about it now, there was not a single strong “plotline” that overtook the course of this book. In the style of Little Women, we are given the story of Plum and her relationships with the people around her. For example, there is a group of boys that Plum was tormented by as a child. She slowly builds a friendship with one, all the while worrying it was some ongoing prank based off of the original incident (one that said boy has no recollection of, and genuinely apologized for when it was brought back to his attention), while also feeling that she is superior to them (though subconsciously) because they don’t seem to be smart in the same way she is. In addition, we see Plum struggling between the identity she has been given by the public and the one that she holds for herself.
It is this raw view of the fifteen-year-old psyche that really connected to me. To begin with, we have a very genuine and unique narrator who encapsulates the mind of a fifteen-year-old. I love Plum’s narration because it’s different. It doesn’t attempt to be #relatable, or something that every reader will connect with; meaning, Plum was genuinely authentic which is why it is relatable and something everyone can connect with. She was learning how to be herself, and I have never seen it written in such a delightful way.
We also see Plum slowly come to the realization that, although she processes things differently and is not publicly acknowledged as a genius like her sister, she quite smart and is given the upper hand. And, while she does have a very pretentious attitude at the beginning of the novel, she slowly learned to realize she should be grateful for this, and help others realize that they are intelligent as well, and it may be the school system that is failing them and not themselves (can you tell I was homeschooled ;)).
And to end, we had her sister. To be honest, Ginny drove me absolutely up the wall. Her character, through the majority of the book, was the one problem I had with this novel. She was so unrealistically out of control emotionally, with her family totally dismissing it, that I could not wrap my hands around it. My only thoughts are that perhaps this was an attempted portrayal of some kind of emotional or mental disorder, but it didn’t seem developed enough to be so. I think this may have just been a weak character, especially when we got to the end and Ginny finally had some depth and development. Like, the last one hundred pages she was fantastic! But, there was no actual background on why, lol.
Overall, this story is incredibly unique. In the style of Little Women we get a series of smaller stories and plotlines that lead us to one big character arc and plot in the end. It is one of those books that I think every kid should get their hands on, because of the way it allows a unique connection for every reader. It was simply delightful.
4 out of 5.