Title: What if…? | Author: Jessica Barondes | Publication Date: January 7, 2014 | Publisher: Sense and Sensability Press | Pages: 145 | Recommended Ages: 10+ | Reviewed by: Renee (Mother)
Summary: Life is complicated for the average tween, but try being the smallest girl in 7th grade and navigating the choppy waters of middle school without a mom. Such is the plight of Penelope “P” Ziegler, until she decides to take matters into her own hands and find a wife for her hopelessly quirky dad. Despite Dad’s objections, P is sure—with all her heart—that there’s a woman out there who will make them both very happy!
My Thoughts: What if…? is a coming of age tale featuring 11 year-old tween girl “P” (aka Penelope), an only child who lost her mother to cancer seven years earlier and who is intent on finding a wife for her dermatologist Dad so that she can make her family whole once again. Along with this search, she must navigate “tween-dom” as she compares herself to her older girl friends who are already in the midst of early puberty and who have seemingly perfect families. And if this isn’t enough, she dips her toe into the world of dating when Max, a classmate on whom she has a crush, asks her to work on a class project together. Alone. In his house. *ahem*
With her repeated failures to find the perfect replacement Mom; her realization that her perception of her friends’ perfect families is an illusion; and through an acceptance that she does not have a Mom to help her navigate through the tricky waters of the tween and teen years, P slowly begins to appreciate her father who has had to perform the dual role of “Dad” and “Mom”. What if…? is a heartwarming, bittersweet, and sometimes comical look into the trials and tribulations of P, a young girl who will touch your heart, as she comes to accept that she indeed does have the perfect family.
I must admit that when I first read this book, I was taken aback by some of the talk of boys, dating, breast development, clothes, and other tween/teen girl obsessions. I thought, aren’t they a bit young to be talking about these things? Then, I came to a sad realization. My daughter is turning 11 this month and these are precisely the things that her and her friends will be talking about. Darn. I am so not ready for this. So, biases aside, I realize that What if…? is PRECISELY the kind of book that my tween daughter wants to be reading. Double darn.
Let’s talk about P. Rarely do I get quite this emotionally invested in a character. The story begins with the reader finding out that P’s mother died of cancer when she was four. As the story moves forward, the author does an amazing job of describing the depth of the void left in P’s life. P’s angst and desperation is absolutely palpable; and, while at times I felt completely frustrated by her relentlessness in trying to find her Dad a wife, I think it also spoke to her long-term and unresolved grief around the loss of her mother. By the end, I wanted to jump in the book, wrap her in my arms, and scream, “I’LL be your Mom, P, I’LL do it!!”
I also appreciated the theme of”motherhood” and how it was defined and threaded in throughout the book. As can be expected, P experienced a huge loss when her mother died. But, as she explores and examines her friends’ relationships with their mothers and their families in general, she comes to realize that mothers often play different roles in a family and that the concept of what is a “mother” is not necessarily universal nor necessarily gender-based. Without giving away too much of the story, there is a contest that P and her friends take part in where they have to write an essay about the Best Mother in the World. As P contemplates What if … her mother were still alive?, she discovers the truth as she puts pen to paper and begins … “The best mother in the world is my father…” Oh, I’m getting teary-eyed just thinking about it!
My Bottom Line: What if…? is a bittersweet and sometimes comical tale of a tween girl, P, who must come to terms with the loss of her mother as she navigates the world of dating, puberty, school, and friendships. P will absolutely warm your heart and the ending is guaranteed to leave you teary-eyed. While I sometimes felt that the themes were more appropriate for teens, I also came to realize that tween girls will also really enjoy reading about the world that they are just on the cusp of entering. *shudder* Ages 10+
* This book was provided to me by the author free-of-charge in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. The author is participating in our Book Promotion Services*
More Buzz About the Book
“What a treat to fall in love with a character from the first second you begin to read her story. P has wit, charm, pluck, charisma–and a lot of things to learn. I totally loved her voice, world, friends and the many ways in which she drove her father Georgy insane. Full of laughs and love this charming book is a wonderful read–no matter what your age.” ~ 5 Star Review, Blue, Amazon
“This is a charming and delightful read from start to finish, filled with characters you really care about, especially the unique girl “P” at the center. You don’t have to be in this age group or life situation to relate to the sweet and heartfelt story about wanting the best for those you love. It’s timeless and inspiring and may bring a tear to your eye!” ~ 5 Star Review, Susan A., Amazon
“Witty, intelligent and edgy coming-of-age book for girls (and parents!). This little book is a real gem. I bought it for my nieces too in hopes that they will appreciate their moms more! (and give their dads a chance to be a true hero, like the dad in this book!) I would bet that school libraries, teachers, parents and girls will rate this book a favorite for years to come.” ~ 5 Star Review, Louann B., Amazon
“I was absolutely enchanted from the first page. This book made me cry! It was delightful. The story so sweet and the characters endearing and so real. By the time I got to the end, I just wanted to burst out in applause. This book is a joy to read at any age but perfect for the “tween” reader.” ~ 5 Star Review, Jen W., Amazon
“Both my 11-year old daughter and I loved this wonderfully written book. Charming and exciting from beginning to end, this book is a real treasure.” ~ 5 Star Review, Susan L., Amazon
About the Author
Jessica Barondes grew up in La Jolla, California and now makes her home in Los Angeles with her husband Ben and their teenagers Jonah and Ellie. Jessica is also a screenwriter whose credits include Little Secrets, Lucky Seven, and Wish Upon a Star, a Disney Channel classic, which was a winner at the Heartland Film Festival. Jessica is currently working on several new movie projects and is an associate producer of the upcoming film Cowgirls n’ Angeles: Dakota’s Summer.
* FREE BOOK *
You can grab your FREE COPY (electronic) of What if…? by Jessica Barondes from March 7 to 11, 2014 from Amazon. Just click on the book cover below.