Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Book Review - Perfectly Ella

Perfectly Ella
Author: Candy Harper
Series: Strawberry Sisters #1
Genres: Contemporary | Childrens, Young Adult
Release Date: 23rd April 2015
Source: Review Copy - Simon and Schuster
Meet the Strawberry Sisters!

Oldest sister Amelia wants to be left alone to have deep thoughts, so she's grown a fringe to hide under. Second up is Chloe who's sport-crazy and in training to be a wrestling star (this week anyway). Littlest sister Lucy is the cute one who's training an army of earwigs.

Then there's Ella. The middle one who's still trying to work out what makes her 'Perfectly Ella' and how to stand out in a house full of big personalities.

And now there's a new Strawberry Sister.
Baby Kirsti who lives with Dad and his Finnish girlfriend.

Along with her sisters and one very tired Mum who's struggling to keep it all together, Ella's small home is crammed with almost-finished homework, nearly-clean jumpers and a vampire bunny called Buttercup. With so much going on, life can sometimes feel totally crazy but the Strawberry sisters have a secret weapon against the craziness of the world they live in, each other.
Candy Harper is what I would call one of my 'staple authors'. She's an author whom, whenever I see or hear of new work to be released by her, I'm on edge, watching and waiting, researching and stalking, ready to snap up advance copies of her work and every time, I'm impressed. With every new release, harper creates youthful characters I fall in love with, relationships and family connections that just turn my cold heart in a warm slushy goo, and stories that tug on my heartstrings and remind me of my own childhood. Perfectly Ella is absolutely no different and was beautiful to read.

Perfectly Ella isn't a story with a plot, at least, not in the traditional sense. It's much better described as a snippet of Ella's life, an important snippet of her life, highlighting a lot of changes that can occur in a child of her age's life. Being a young girl starting at a bigger, scarier school is a daunting process, I recall my own experiences of large schools with lots of older, more intimidating children, queen bees and popular misses and lots and lots of tension between friends and Harper explores these events so realistically and so honestly, it was extremely hard to not imagine myself in Ella's shoes, reliving this moments from my own life.

What brought this story, Ella's story, alive was Harper's characters and just how varied, well developed, realistic and relatable they all were, everything from their emotions to their actions, to there beliefs and their feelings, they were wonderful, rich and tangible - everything I love in a cast of characters. there personal struggles was perfectly realistic against their age ranges, Amelia with her confidence and air of higher power by negative and highly emotional feelings towards her parents divorce and her internal struggles on how to deal with extra family members was really delved into pretty perfectly and I definitely felt a lot in common with her throughout. Chloe and her slightly naive journey through life and her learning on how to deal with other peoples emotions better was maybe a little less developed, but was highlighted enough to keep me impressed.

"I do listen in class," Chloe protested. "just not all the time. Teachers say things ten times anyway; you only need to listen once." Mum shook her head, but she was smiling a bit.

Lucy, the eccentric and excitable sister who just wants to be family tugged on my heartstrings completely and if there was a character I fell completely in love with, it's her. Ella however, sadly, considering she's the leading lady, didn't feel as well developed or explored as the other girls in the family. Her niceness and her concern, love and worry for other people, as wonderful and as lovely as it was, just wasn't as impressive for me, least because she should have been the most developed in the story. However, her voice and her attitude, her emotions and her feelings, her wants and needs, I felt them more than anything throughout Perfectly Ella, I felt them deep within the darkest corners of myself, I resonated with her and I could really relate to wondering what makes me special in a family full of what feels like more interesting members.

The family aspect between the girls and their parents was really one of my favourite parts of this story though. Active parents are a must in contemporary reads for me to enjoy them more than most and active parents Perfectly Ella had. The girls mother, no matter what her other stresses and worries always made time for her children, was honest and down to earth with them and was the balance their household needed, and even when times were tough and she felt a little down, she always put her children first, and this just made me love and appreciate their mother so much more. Their Father's development and involvement was such a poignant part of the story for me personally and really created much needed depth in the story - divorce between parents and the moving on that features afterwards can always be a struggle and seeing how their Father started out in Perfectly Ella and how he learnt lessons just as much as the girls did, well, that was superbly beautiful and just made my heart smile.

"Ella, I would spend all the money in the world to show you that there is always room for you."

Yes, this book is on the much younger side of young adult, and yes, it's not got as much depth as other books with younger protagonists such as Wonder or 8-Bit Christmas, but Perfectly Ella is a heartwarming, beautiful story of one family and one forgotten girl finding what makes her special, what makes her understand people more than other people in life, what makes friendships work and what it means to care for people, sometimes more than you care for yourself. Perfectly Ella explores families, sibling love and loyalty, divorce, distance and pain and definitely created more emotions and feelings within me than I had expected. Perfectly Ella, along with Harper's other work was gorgeous and adorable, and I'm definitely interested in seeing how and where Harper takes the series next, and who's voice we'll get to read in next. Consider me hooked on Harper.

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