While her dad is on sabbatical, twelve-year-old Petunia and her family go to live in Paris where she hopes to escape the humiliation of messing up badly with her crush Windel. Trying to maneuver day to day life in a foreign country proves more difficult when everything seems to be so easy for her perfect older sister Ava. However Paris proves to be even more intriguing when Petunia discovers a locked secret compartment in the armoire in her room.
Full disclosure, I don’t often read too many middle grade books, so for me, I definitely had to shift my mentality a bit when reading this book for review. I loved getting to read a book set in Paris from the POV of a younger narrator. I’ve read so many young adult and adult books that it was interesting to see the city through the wonderment of a pre-teen. The infusion of French, paired with it’s English translation, was done very well without it seeming too much like a text book. Worked into the dialogue, it felt like a way to brush up on conversational French.
Perhaps it’s playing to the younger/older sibling rivalry theme, but I felt this may do more harm than good to any young reader who may be experiencing the same thing. Not only with Ava, but the mother is abhorrent in their treatment to the younger daughter and while their motivations do (thankfully) get explained eventually, I found it really challenging to accept. But, like I said, maybe a 12-year-old younger sibling can completely relate to that… it just felt like the spoiled petulant attitude dragged on for too long before anything was resolved. I did love her interactions with everyone outside of her family though. Those felt more supportive and encouraging of Petunia than those who supposedly were to know her best.
While suspending your disbelief at times, it was refreshing to have young Petunia be an aspiring fashion designer/seamstress in this book. As someone who recently has become obsessed with sewing, I loved the inclusion of this skill and hopefully may inspire the youth to be ambitious and creative! Overall, this was a sweet contemporary story that takes a few dark, serious turns before coming back to lighter fare.