Book Review: Anywhere but Paradise

Posted March 1, 2015 by Kara in book review, Kara / 0 Comments

Book Review: Anywhere but ParadiseAnywhere but Paradise by Anne Bustard
Published by EgmontUSA on April 14th, 2015
Genres: historical, middle grade
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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four-half-stars

Moving from Texas to Hawaii in 1960,12-year-old Peggy Sue faces a difficult transition when she is bulled as one of the few haole (white) students in her school. This lyrical debut novel is perfect for Common Core classroom connections.

It's 1960 and Peggy Sue has just been transplanted from Texas to Hawaii for her father's new job. Her cat, Howdy, is stuck in animal quarantine, and she's baffled by Hawaiian customs and words. Worst of all, eighth grader Kiki Kahana targets Peggy Sue because she is haole--white--warning her that unless she does what Kiki wants, she will be a victim on "kill haoleday," the last day of school. Peggy Sue's home ec teacher insists that she help Kiki with her sewing project or risk failing. Life looks bleak until Peggy Sue meets Malina, whose mother gives hula lessons. But when her parents take a trip to Hilo, leaving Peggy Sue at Malina's, life takes an unexpected twist in the form of a tsunami. Peggy Sue is knocked unconscious and wakes to learn that her parents safety and whereabouts are unknown. Peggy Sue has to summon all her courage to have hope that they will return safely.

I don’t know where to start. First of all, I probably would have never read this book if it wasn’t for Cuddlebuggery and the blog hop they are hosting for the EgmontUSA authors. I really wanted to help out, and this book looked like one I might enjoy, so I picked it as one of my three possibilities. And then this was the one I was assigned to. Part of my promotion is too interview the author (and that will appear on the blog tomorrow), but in order to do that properly, I wanted to read the book so I would know the right questions to ask.

I am so glad I did.

Of all the books I have read throughout my life, only a few were set in Hawaii. I’m not saying it’s rare to have a book set in Hawaii but there are certainly many other places that make more popular settings. And why? Hawaiian culture and history is fascinating. And a middle grade historical set in Hawaii? That is something I have never come across before.

The author spent many of her formative years in Hawaii and it shows. The writing is atmospheric and she brings the setting to life through her prose. The voice is fantastic and I truly felt like I was seeing Hawaii through Peggy Sue’s eyes. (Sidenote: The names in this book are ridiculous. I know it’s the sixties, but still.)

This book has some lighthearted elements, but it also gets very serious. It deals with issues such as bullying and prejudice in ways I have not encountered before. I thought the very sensitive topics were dealt with smartly and in an emotional way. Also, there is a side plot about the rabies’ quarantine, which I didn’t even know existed (and still exists today). Peggy Sue has a beloved cat named Howdy who is quarantined in a facility for 120 days while they determine whether he is rabies free or now. Hawaii has no rabies and obviously they want to keep it this way. Makes sense, but it also seems rather cruel to the animals that are forced to live in a shelter without their loved ones for that long. 🙁

Anyway, I had one minor quibble with the book, and I hope it’s something that will be ironed out when the final copy goes out. I had some clarity issues with the writing in a few places. I couldn’t interpret the meaning or what the author was trying to say, and it yanked me out of the narrative forcing me to read it over several times until it made sense. The formatting was a bit wonky so that didn’t help, but I would like to see that fixed and hope it is. Otherwise, it’s a beautiful book.

The things you get to learn about in this book are pretty awesome, and learning is one of my favorite parts of reading. Hula dancing, Hawaiian cuisine, the flora, the history of the state, and if you read the author’s note at the end, you will learn that The United States never formally apologized for overthrowing the Hawaiian monarchy until Bill Clinton signed it into law in 1993. Or course it was Bill Clinton that finally did the right thing. I love that man, despite his flaws.

I highly recommend Anywhere but Paradise. Peggy Sue will tug at your heartstrings and make you fall in love with her and her story. It’s a short book but it makes an impact. I recommend this for animal lovers, historical fiction fans, and people looking to try a different genre. It’s an easy read and a great introduction to middle grade.

kara

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