Saturday, July 8, 2017

Book Review: A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids by Shelley Tougas

Shelley Tougas writes such believable kids, it's impressive and yet, because she' so great at it, I think it's an overlooked skill. The most highly skilled people make the hard work look easy.

No one believes that Mary's cousin Eden is getting married, but Mary's not going to look an offer to be a junior bridesmaid in the mouth! Not to mention, it distracts from her being disciplined at school for hitting a boy, Brent. Not that her mother needs a lot of distracting lately--with her father having moved to North Dakota for work and her mother hanging on as a single parent with a low-paying job so Mary and her brother can finish out the school year, she's pretty distracted most of the time. But it finally is the end of the school year and Mary and her brother are going to live with their Grandmother and Eden, while their mom heads to North Dakota to look for a job and a place for them to all live.

Mary throws herself into being a good bridesmaid. And one of the first thing she learns is that her job is to make the bride's life easier. And considering that Eden has crippling social anxiety (as does her fiance, which is how they met--in a support group), Mary knows that trying to help mitigate the giant, fancy wedding their grandmother is planning that Eden doesn't want, should be her number one goal. But she doesn't want to hurt their grandmother's feelings either, and she's a very formidable woman who basically always gets her way. Mary has found praying to Patron Saints a lot easier lately, but she can't find a patron saint for junior bridesmaids, so she's having to navigate a lot of tricky waters with her family (not to mention the cute boy down the street), solo.

This is a great middle grade book because it's not chock-filled with Big Issues. Don't get me wrong--it's not a light fluffy novel with nothing at all bad, it's just not dark or depressing and things work out in the end. The reason that Mary punched the boy in her class, and the aftermath of that, is by far the most compelling story, although it's by no means the main storyline. It's really nice to see Eden, dealing with her anxiety in productive ways and actively working to get better, and it's nice to see a positive and empowering story with that particular issue. Mary has a close, loving family, whose biggest problem is that they tell white lies to spare each others' feelings, and there's a bit of an internal fight/joke about whether Irish or German food is better. I especially liked the neighborhood boy who is a love interest that never really gets off the ground, but as a Unitarian, opens Mary's eyes a bit to her own Catholic faith and to the wider world around her.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Roaring Brook, a part of Macmillan Publishers, my employer.

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