By Bridget Farr
“Twelve-year-old Pavi Sharma is an expert at the Front Door Face: the perfect mix of puppy dog eyes and a lemonade smile, the exact combination to put foster parents at ease as they open their front door to welcome you in. After being bounced around between foster families and shelter stays, Pavi is a foster care expert, and she runs a “business” teaching other foster kids all she has learned. With a wonderful foster family in mom Marjorie and brother Hamilton, things are looking up for Pavi. Then Pavi meets Meridee: a new five-year-old foster kid, who is getting placed at Pavi’s first horrendous foster home. Pavi knows no one will trust a kid about what happened on Lovely Lane, even one as mature as she is, so it’s up to her to save Meridee. With help from Hamilton, brooding eighth grader Santos, and Hamilton’s somewhat obnoxious BFF Piper, they set off on an important mission with life-changing stakes. Pavi will stop at nothing to keep Meridee from the home that still haunts her nightmares.” Official summary
My thoughts: To start, Pavi is an amazing, super well developed character. I loved how even though she barely knew Meridee, she immediately jumped into action when she found out about which home the little girl was going to. Pavi was so considerate and kind, and the fact that she literally runs an almost-business helping foster kids like her get put in comfortable homes really made me love her.
Of course, she wasn’t overly perfect either, and I think that makes her a little more real. Even super generous, kind people make mistakes sometimes, and this book really represented that well. Pavi makes some huge mistakes, which she learns from of course, but I didn’t like how they kind of skipped over the consequences for her actions. One of the mistakes she made was very serious, and she just made up an excuse and the adults pretty much let her get away with it.
I did kind of want to know more about why Pavi was in foster care. It sounded like her mom was still alive, and maybe had some sort of mental issue or something? The details were very vague. It was very inspiring though, the connections Pavi made with her friends and caseworkers in foster care, and it was so beautiful to read about these people who have dedicated their lives to finding these kids safe, comfortable homes.
I never really connected with any of the side characters, except Marjorie (Pavi’s foster mom) and Meridee. Hamilton kind of just felt there, sometimes making a funny joke but it didn’t really feel like he added to the scene a whole lot. His character was definitely necessary to the plotline, but his personality didn’t really connect with me. And Piper was exceedingly annoying. A lot of the stuff she said actually would sound kind of offensive to me if I was in Pavi’s position, and I applaud her for the way she handles it. And Santos was a great character though, I liked how he recognized the possible danger Meridee could be in as someone also in the foster care system, and took action even though his normal response seems to be to ignore everybody.
The plot was well paced and truly fun to read, and very inspiring at times. I almost cried at one point, but I’m glad there was a happy ending. I definitely thought Mr. Nickerson should have gotten in a lot more trouble when the truth came out about his dog fighting habit, even if he’d “changed.” Dogfighting is illegal in all 50 states, and he should’ve gotten at least some kind of punishment. Not that I want people to be punished, it just felt unrealistic that he got off scot free for the horrible, horrible things he was doing with those poor animals.
And the whole dogfighting thing brings me around to the age level for this book. I’d say kids around 10-13 would enjoy this. The aren’t really any big words or anything, and the violence involved in the dogfighting scenes aren’t that bad, however they do describe a puppy being hurt and most likely killed in the ring, which was kind of upsetting to me. There’s also some references to child neglect.
Overall, this book is a fun, quick read that I know you’ll enjoy!