Pearl by Jo Knowles

Bean and Henry are close friends with a lot in common. Both had fathers that skipped out and live their single mothers, who each have a lot of baggage. Henry’s mom, Sally, is hugely obese, doesn’t leave the house, and watches soap operas.  She is kind and sweet and loving to both Henry and Bean, though.  Bean (real name, Pearl) lives with her grandfather, Gus, and her mother, who is a waitress, heavy drinker, possibly slutty, had Bean when she was 15.  When Gus dies suddenly her mother seems happy and things are kind of weird.  Bean begins demanding answers about the missing father and uncovers deep dark family secrets that force her to reconsider her feelings for both her mother and grandfather.  Despite all that drama and mystery it’s a somewhat quiet book.  I think that’s because the only characters in it are the ones I described above, plus her mom’s friend Claire.  You feel like you are in a bubble of their world, which I guess is actually what Henry and Bean’s lives are like-they don’t have other friends, nor do they interact with anyone in their neighborhood. A neighborhood which is painted as so depressing possibly desolate that I kept picturing it as deserted.  In fact, I became fixated on wanting to know what state/city they lived in. It was hot, there was a polluted river in the city, it was a city.  I’m guessing Texas, and I know it’s not crucial to the story but I was just dying to know.  The polluted dirty river descriptions were heart breakingly depressing.

I didn’t love this, but I did appreciate the writing of the story and I thought Henry, Bean, and Sally were very good characters.

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