Pearl (review)
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Reviewed by
Knowles, Jo. Pearl. Holt, 2011. [224p]. ISBN 978-0-8050-9207-3 $16.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 6-9.

Devastated by the passing of her grandfather, fifteen-year-old Pearl, aka Bean, turns her anger towards her mother, Lexie, a woman whose alcoholic and somewhat wild lifestyle often put her at odds with both her daughter and her father. Lexie's glee in the wake of her father's passing, meanwhile, is apparent as she dyes her hair, takes a vacation from work, and invites her longtime friend Claire to live with her and Bean, increasing the distance between mother and daughter. One night, Bean overhears a secret that threatens not only her image of her beloved grandfather but also her potential romance with Henry, her best friend from childhood: lovers for nearly fifteen years, Lexie and Claire were forced to keep their relationship a secret after being discovered by Lexie's furious father, and Bean is the result of Lexie's attempt to go straight—an attempt that may have been consummated with Henry's estranged father. Knowles makes no attempt to disguise the more soap-operatic elements of the plot, even cheekily referencing Days of Our Lives as Henry and Bean's favorite TV show, but such levity is much needed, particularly as the oppressiveness of Bean's circumstances begins to equal the gloom of her dusty, polluted town. Bean's grief at learning the unfortunate situation surrounding her birth and its ramifications is deftly rendered, offering up a raw, unmitigated picture of a little girl lost. Characters are believably and often heartbreakingly flawed—Lexie's attempts at mothering are as tender as they are futile, while Bean's efforts to reconcile her perceptions with reality typically lead to only more misunderstandings and anger. The tidy conclusion feels a bit out of step with the authentic messiness of its preceding events, but the hopefulness of Henry and Bean's relationship is a welcome bit of optimism in this evocative tale that is sure to linger with readers. [End Page 527]