Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom - Susin Nielsen

Title: Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom
Author: Susin Nielsen
Publisher: Tundra Books, 2010 (Hardcover)
Length: 229 pages
Genre: Children's Realistic Fiction
Started: January 31, 2011
Finished: February 1, 2011

From the author's website:
Twelve-year-old Violet Gustafson's TV director father has caused a huge upheaval: he's left his family in Vancouver to start afresh with his new, blonde trophy wife in LA. To Violet, it seems like he's traded in his old life for a new and improved one – complete with new and improved children. When her mother takes up with the unfortunately named Dudley Wiener after a series of disastrous relationships, Violet – with the help of her best friend Phoebe – decides to take control. After all, her mother's dating choices directly affect her and her sister Rosie, too. If her mom can't pick a decent man herself, Violet will help her to snag the most perfect one of all: George Clooney. In turns brazen, infuriating, and hysterical, Violet's antics will delight readers, who will root for her, even when she's at her worst. In this poignant, funny new novel, author Susin Nielsen explores the emotional fallout of divorce – and creates a true original in Violet, whose outrageous yet always heartfelt ploys to set things right will resonate with readers for years to come.

It's official: I will read anything this author writes, her stuff is amazing. I read Word Nerd over a year ago and absolutely loved it to pieces, it was quirky, funny, and heartfelt at the same time. Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom is no different: the main character is quirky and lovable, the book had me laughing my head off, and it deals with the after effects of divorce on families and children.

Twelve-year-old Violet isn't happy. Her parents divorced when she was nine, and since then her father's moved from their home in Vancouver to Los Angeles to live with his new wife-the woman he cheated on Violet's mother with-and their two-year-old twin girls. Violet and her five-year-old sister Rose (Rosie) both suffer from the effects of their parents' divorce: Rosie wets her bed and gets teased at school, while Violet becomes increasingly cynical, swearing off love and takes to rearranging things in their home according to various methods (her own way of regaining control over her life). When Violet gets fed up with her mother dating one loser after another, she vows to secure the perfect man for her mom: George Clooney. While waiting for a response from the letter she sent to George Clooney, Violet plays detective with her best friend Phoebe, trying to unearth any secrets her mother's new boyfriend, Dudley Wiener, might be hiding. Along the way, Violet learns to move beyond her anger towards her father and his new wife Jennica, and also opens up to the idea that while Dudley isn't George Clooney and can't replace her dad, he just might be good enough to make her mother happy.

I loved this book for so many reasons. Violet and Rosie's reactions after their parents' divorce were realistic, I have friends whose parents divorced when they were children and some of the issues explored here are a bang-on match. Although I doubt things come together that cleanly in the end in the real world, it's the ending I wanted for Violet, I just wanted her mom to stay with Dudley and for Violet to realize he wasn't such a bad guy after all. Violet is an amazing character, she's not the nicest kid and does some pretty bad stuff throughout the course of the book, but you can't help but laugh at the results and realize she's dealing with her anger in the way that she knows and most of the time she's well-intentioned, she only wants her mom to be happy again. Violet's narration is quirky and funny in the way that real twelve year olds talk, but not too quirky that she seems unbelievable, which makes for a very relatable character. And the best part: Cosmo and Ambrose from Word Nerd make a repeat appearance, in a way that actually relates to Violet's story, which I thought was super cute.

A wonderfully funny but heartfelt book about families and children after divorce. Very accessible for children, I'd give it to any kid over ten in a heartbeat. Violet does use some inappropriate language (read: bitch) relating to her dad's new wife and some of the girls at school, but that's pretty much the only thing I can think of that might be an issue for some people. Trust me, read this, you'll love it, and then go read Word Nerd too!

Thoughts on the cover:
I love the sea-foam green colour on the cover. Violet's beloved Converse shoes with the skull and rose motif are pictured here, and the airmail envelope with the title inside is a nice touch too.

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