Patricia “Sweet Pea” DiMarco wasn’t sure what to expect when her parents announced they were getting a divorce. She never could have imagined that they would have the “brilliant” idea of living in nearly identical houses on the same street. In the one house between them lives their eccentric neighbor Miss Flora Mae, the famed local advice columnist behind “Miss Flora Mae I?”
Dividing her time between two homes is not easy. And it doesn’t help that at school, Sweet Pea is now sitting right next to her ex–best friend, Kiera, a daily reminder of the friendship that once was. Things might be unbearable if Sweet Pea didn’t have Oscar—her new best friend—and her fifteen-pound cat, Cheese.
Then one day Flora leaves for a trip and asks Sweet Pea to forward her the letters for the column. And Sweet Pea happens to recognize the handwriting on one of the envelopes.
What she decides to do with that letter sets off a chain of events that will forever change the lives of Sweet Pea DiMarco, her family, and many of the readers of “Miss Flora Mae I?”
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review but this did not affect my opinion at all.
I have read almost all of Julie Murphy’s novels and fell in love with them all. I was so excited to pick up her middle grade debut and it did not disappoint. Personally, I enjoy YA more than middle grade so this wasn’t as good as her YA novels in my opinion but I think this definitely is the sort of book I would have loved when I was younger.
When I was younger, I loved to read books about friendship. Any sorts of friendship but I just loved seeing a friendship at the centre of the story. Even now, friendship is something I gravitate towards in books. Dear Sweet Pea had an excellent representation of friendship throughout. We got to see Sweet Pea struggling with her friendships with both Oscar and Kiera. I loved seeing how she dealt with changes in friendship because a lot of books tend to skip over friendship issues. Sweet Pea was not innocent and caused a lot of issues with both friendships but I love seeing complex and flawed characters, especially when they’re younger because it gives more of an accurate representation of real human beings.
I also loved how this book dealt with divorce. The parents approach to their divorce was unique but I loved how it was handled. I liked how there were conversations in the book about how divorce can really mess a kid up when they’re younger but also about how it can be the better option. I’ve never seen divorce dealt with in a book like this before, but I loved it.
I loved the additions of the Dear Flora Mae letters because I’ve always loved reading advice columns. I find them so fascinating and I really enjoyed seeing how Sweet Pea dealt with the letters and how the whole community loved the column. I wish there had been more of the letters and of Flora Mae in the book. It felt like it was sort of skimmed over and I wanted more development.
Overall, I loved Julie Murphy’s middle grade debut. It felt like a Julie Murphy novel due to the Southern USA feel but this time, it focused on Aretha Franklin rather than Dolly Parton. I would definitely recommend this book, especially to anyone who is younger and going through tough friendship issues.