Thursday, July 14, 2011

Review: Pearl

Jo Knowles
Contemporary Young Adult
224 pages
Henry Holt/Macmillan
Available July 19th
Received for review
through Teen Book Scene

Pearl, aka Bean, is pretty used to how things are in her life. Her mother isn't really much of a mother at all, working late and coming home drunk only to get into an argument with her father over the poor decisions he feels she's making. At least Bean has Henry, her best friend and a young man that has family issues of his own.

When Bean's grandfather dies unexpectedly, her entire world changes. Not only does her mother not seem overly upset, but her mom's best friend Claire moves in and she can hear them laughing late at night when, for Bean, the grief and loss are almost more than she can bear.

Though Henry's mom Sally almost never leaves their house, she agrees to come to Bean's grandfather's funeral and ends up befriending both Bean's mom and Claire. This new friendship coupled with her grandfather's absence leads to some new family drama, and the shocking realization that things are not now, nor have they ever been, what they've seemed to Bean.

Quietly compelling, Pearl is one of those stories that gives us just a few frames in the moving picture of one particular character's life, pulling us into Bean's world quickly for a couple brief moments of conflict before we are released back into our own lives. While there is certainly drama, it never crosses the line into melodrama but rather remains engagingly intimate, as though we alone are the only ones that will share in the pain, the healing, and the growth Pearl experiences regardless of the number of people who will actually read this tale. For a short period of time we are her invisible confidantes, lending support when it's needed and wishing our fingers could fall through the pages to lace with hers as family history is brought to light in a softer way no less compelling for it's subdued delivery.

Pearl and Henry are characters to whom we instantly form a camaraderie, wanting and hoping to shield them from the difficulties of their lonely existence. Both have mothers who have temporarily forgotten what it means to raise a child, retreating so deeply into the trivialities of their own lives they leave no time for the inclusion of their flesh and blood. As we see them both through Pearl's eyes, we feel both anger and sadness, willing them to see how their smallest actions or inactions have the most profound effect on their children. For their part, Pearl and Henry take their mothers in stride, their familiarity with the detachment disheartening but the strength of their bond and the support system they've built with one another enough to bring a wistful smile to our faces.

The evolving relationships between all the characters are a pleasure to read, the passing of one person the catalyst for so many positive changes as new life is sparked from the literal ashes of death. The snippet of time we're given in Pearl is engaging, but it is a brief interlude that doesn't necessarily linger long in our memories once we've finished reading. It's a quick snapshot–we blink and it's over– and we find ourselves ready to move on without feeling the need to dwell on the events or replay them in our minds to make the experience last that little bit longer. Pearl is a fast, interesting read, just not one that will burn a hole on our shelves as a permanent brand to let us know it's there.

Rating: 3/5


  1. Sounds like an inspired concept. Too bad it didn't leave as much of an impression as it could have because it sounds like it had some potential. Thanks for the review :)

  2. Pearl has a great premise, and I would like to read it because I enjoyed the author's previous book. It's good to know that one instantly connects to the characters, which is important to me. Thanks for the review!

  3. Nice cover, it really does look promising. And I like fast reads!

  4. Really? It's contemporary YA? I'm surprised because of the cover.

    So, it's another case of the absentee parents, or rather mothers. I know it's a complaint in YA that the parents are never around, but to me it makes sense because what else is there to say about happy household other than they are happy? Seems like it is a good thing then that Pearl and Henry have each other to lean on.

    Thanks for the review, Jenny. I may not feel as compelled to pick this one up as I did before, but I'm glad to know what kind of story it is.

  5. Hmmm I am still curious about this one since I am a huge contemp fan despite it lack of leaving an impact. Great honest review Jenny.

  6. I am a bit intrigued by this one and the intimacy the author created, but wary since you also found that it didn't create a lasting impact. I did like your description of Bean and Henry's relationship and it sounds as if the book has some really sweet moments worth a read. Lovely review.

  7. Nice review. Even if I think I would need more from the book to read it

  8. Great Review! I am surprised that it is a Cont. YA based on the cover, that was an interesting choice by the publisher.

    The story sounds compelling but the fact that the mother is not involved kind of disappoints me. It is becoming rare to find a book with good parents.

  9. I love the cover, it reminded me of Matched for some reason- minus the girl inside of course!!

    Im a huge Contempo fan so Ill have to add this to the reading pile....but I agree with Felicia above...the absent parents in so many YAs is disappointing.

  10. Hmm, I was hoping it get a better rating. Though I like the feelings of anger and sadness in the book. This review has most certainly picked up my interest.

  11. Aylee - It was a good read, just not overly memorable for me:)

    Misha - I really liked both Bean and Henry and felt for them with the way their mothers were, and it was fun to watch them grow. The story just didn't blow me away though I enjoyed it.

    Natalie - It's a short little book, definitely a quick read:)

    Missie - Yes, it's contemporary. I would have guessed paranormal from the cover as well:) I liked that the moms started out absentee and then grew to realize how much they'd been ignoring their children which was nice. And it's gradual, so it wasn't just "oh, I'm going to be the ideal parent now".

    Nic - It's certainly worth a read, it's just one of those where I'm satisfied having read it once and don't feel the need to read it again and again.

    Jan - It definitely has some sweet moments and it's a interesting read, I'm just not overly upset that I had to send it on to the next person on the tour and couldn't keep it for my shelf.

    Blodeuedd - Thanks:)

    Felicia - Thanks! I was surprised too when I read the blurb, it looks like a Matched-type cover so I was expecting a dystopian of sorts. And the mother starts to come around, that's one of the highlights of the story.

    Tina - Exactly! It's mostly a story of figuring out how to be a family when they haven't really been one before, so while she's absent in the beginning, things start to change:)

    Savy - It was good for sure, just not one of those that made me go WOW.

  12. I'm just not in the mood for anything so...heavy. Death, drunk mom, etc. I'll have to pass. I've really been in the mood for lighter reads. Great review!

  13. Well DANG... I was TOTALLY looking forward to this one!!!! :(

    "Pearl is a fast, interesting read, just not one that will burn a hole on our shelves as a permanent brand to let us know it's there." <--- I love your word pictures. You know what I mean? Like I can PICTURE what you are saying. FEW people have this talent chick. <3 you!

  14. Very nice review. A contemp YA huh? I haven't gone that route yet but it sounds interesting.

  15. Wow, Pearl sounds very touching! I love books that succeed in making you feel as if you're actually a part of its world. Bummer that it wasn't very memorable, though! Fantastic review! :)

  16. That's a shame that it didn't turn out to be all that memorable, but I might still check it out if my library gets it in. Nice honest review, Jenny! :)

  17. Mollie - It was a little heavy, but definitely not as much as it could have been. I didn't feel weighed down despite the situation:)

    Ashley - You should read it, it's entertaining, you probably just won't run to your computer to see who else has read it so you can talk to them about it:)

    Tori - I don't read too many YA contemps, I've probably only read about 5. I'm liking them more and more though this one wasn't the strongest for me:)

    Lauren - It was just so quick, I think that was part of the problem - I was in and out of that world in no time, I didn't really ever settle in.

    Lea - It'd be a perfect library read:)

  18. I have heard about this book on other peoples blogs but wasn't sure what it was about. Will have to check it out sounds intreging. The cover is simple but cute.

  19. I can see why this one wouldn't leave much of an impression on you. It doesn't have the most interesting concept, but it does sound intriguing. Thanks for the review, Jenny! =)

  20. Hum, sounds like I do need to check this one out -- I love when characters have great dynamics. Contemporaries don't always call to me but I like to read them so I can recommend them to my students.
    Happy reading,
    Mary @ Book Swarm

  21. Laura - I love the cover:) I think it makes it look like a paranormal or dystopian book instead of contemporary, but it's beautiful.

    Bailey - It was a nice break from my paranormal books, but it won't make it to my list of favorites:)

    Mary - The characters were the highlight for sure, it's a character-driven story.

  22. Sounds "okay". Hm... still interesting enough that I may library check it and not buy it. I had to laugh tho... i'm reading about a character named Pearl. She's elderly and likes to go streaking during parades in a small town. ;D Made me take a second look when I saw the title. lol

  23. Maybe I will like it more as I'm hoping to read it soon for a reading challenge. I just hope my library gets it in soon.

  24. I'm going to read this one for the Contemps, for sure. I'm glad it's a pretty decent read. I guess not every book is going to speak to you, but it's still always a little disappointing when a book isn't amazing. Thanks for the review! =)

  25. I'm not much of contemporary reader for teens, but I wouldn't mind giving this one a shot. I love the cover. It's so pretty. It would definitely draw my attention sitting on the bookshelf.

  26. I'm actually surprised this is contemporary...I had no idea. I'm sad it's not too memorable of a read, but it sounds fast and simple - something of a filler, if you will. Perhaps it will find its way onto my shelf. Great review, Jenny :)

  27. I have a really good feeling about this author. Heard great things about her previous work. Might just look into this, thanks Jenny :)

  28. Great review.

    For some reason this cover had me thinking it was dystopian.

  29. Melissa - Haha no, no elderly Pearls in this one:) It'd be a good library check-out:)

    Jenny - I'll be interested to see what you think!

    Ashley - This is true, it's perfectly good, it just lacked that something extra for me:)

    Julie - I love the cover too, it's what first attracted to me to this one:)

    Melissa - I kept expecting some paranormal element to come in to play even though I knew it was contemporary. I have no idea why I was so convinced it was supernatural.

    Aly - I enjoyed and would read more of her books:)

    Juju - It looks very dystopian. Like the Matched and Crossed:)

  30. I know exactly what you mean about books that are enjoyable while you're reading them, but don't necessarily stick with you. I've read a lot of books like that. Of course, ones you never forget are ideal, but there's something to be said for temporary enjoyment.
    I also thought this was a dystopia from the cover.

  31. Great review Jenny! You have such a nice way of saying it was okay but nothing special. The cover is intriguing. I didn't expect your review based on the cover. I don't know what I was expecting but a more adult story, I guess. Thanks for your review!


  32. Great review, Jenny. The plot and the characters sound good so it's too bad that you didn't find the book that memorable.

  33. Eh, I think I'll pass. I was already leaning kind of away from this one because it's not really my thing anyway, but your review has sealed the deal. I don't want to read a book that isn't memorable when I have so many others waiting. Thank you!

  34. I think it sounds like a lovely read, but based on your review, definitely sounds as if it's not something that will make one linger and think over for days afterwards. I do love the cover and the Bean and Henry sound like characters I may want to get to know at some stage, when I don't have too much on my list of to-reads. A lovely review Jenny!

  35. Great review, it sounds like it has some similar elements at Laura Wiess' new book.