Book Review: Anywhere but Paradise by Anne Bustard

last-list_blog-hop-300x300As I mentioned a week or two ago, in January, EgmontUSA announced that they were going out of business, and that this spring’s list would be their last. I signed up to participate in Cuddlebuggery’s Last List Blog Hop in hopes of offering at least one of the affected writers a little bit of free publicity. 

This review is part of that blog hop. Also, be sure to catch my interview with Anne Bustard on BostonWriters.

Page break clip artAnywhere but Paradise
By Anne Bustard
Egmont USA
Release date: March 31, 2015
Genre: Middle Grade (Ages 8-12)

Anywhere but Paradise is a beautifully written Middle Grade (MG) novel about Peggy Sue Bennett, a 12-year-girl who moves from Gladiola, Texas to Hawaii after her father gets a job in the sugar cane industry.

Aimed at readers ages 8-12, Anywhere but Paradise touches on several important, yet difficult issues, for YA readers: bullying, discrimination, loneliness, and coming to terms with major life changes over which you have absolutely no control.

ABP_jkt_finalSome of the writing may be too intense for younger or emotionally tender readers — I had a lump in my throat from almost the opening pages.  The scene where Peggy Sue has to leave her beloved cat, Howdy, in the quarantine center is heart-wrenching.  Throughout the novel, Bustard uses Howdy’s situation extremely effectively to mirror the struggles Peggy herself is going through.  The parallels are skillful, adding pressure to Peggy’s situation without being purely duplicative.

There is another tough section toward the end of the book, when a tsunami strikes Hawaii and Peggy Sue is separated from her parents. The days of uncertainty while Peggy Sue waits to hear whether her parents have survived are a bit harrowing.

Still, even in the darkest moments of the novel, I never lost hope for Peggy Sue. In fact, I found the ending both deeply satisfying and realistic. Things will never be perfect in Hawaii, but Peggy Sue manages to make a place for herself within this new and gloriously imperfect paradise.

Anywhere but Paradise is a marvelous book, and I look forward to reading more from Bustard in the future.

Disclosure: I received a free kindle copy of Anywhere but Paradise from EgmontUSA via NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.  You can preorder Anywhere but Paradise from Amazon here. The book will be available in stores March 31, 2015.

Cross-posted on BostonWriters.

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About Shala Howell

Writer of things ranging from optical network switching white papers to genetic testing patient education materials to historical fiction set in an 1880s asylum. When I’m not scratching my head over pesky characters who refuse to do things how I want them done or dreaming of my next book (which will of course be much easier to write than the current one), my writerly self can be found blogging about life with a very curious Ten-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, or musing about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.wordpress.com.
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