by Lauren Myracle
Young Adult, 192 pages
Fifteen year-old Carly is a budding nonconformist, haircut maven and, most of all, older sister extraordinaire. But when she comes back from wilderness camp all tanned and decked out in leather hippie sandals, she realizes her younger sister Anna has, er, developed in all the right places. Now Anna, just an incoming frosh, seems to have it all figured out in the vapid, striated social world of the exclusive Holy Redeemer prep school they go to.
As Mr. Lauderdale worries about his new Jaguar and their equally materialistic mother raves about her mani-pedis, Carly sees Anna straining to join the kind of girls who spend their lunch hours discussing teeth-bleaching and hair extensions. The more Carly rebels and tries to define her own ideals, the more difficult her sisterly relationship becomes. When their parents go out of town and a party mixed with some bad decisions tests their bond once and for all, Carly won’t have any PEACE, she’ll rediscover her LOVE for Anna & maybe even get a couple BABY DUCKS out of the bargain.
Lauren Myracle is extremely talented at portraying the younger teen/older tween mentality in all of its conflicted, contradictory, self-conscious glory. Carly is a masterpiece in this regard. She’s trying to hone her own personality while the rest of her world pushes back on her and challenges her. She even goes too far on several occasions and hurts Anna and her friends. In all things, Carly keeps returning to what it means to be a sister and how to be true to herself in an artificial world. While some things may seem straight out of the Kidlit Canon — like the obligatory parents-out-of-town-rager-that-gets-out-of-control, the evergreen awful-back-to-school-haircut and the old favorite, new-boy-in-school-is-blazingly-hot plotlines — Myracle’s talent is making each internal conflict that arises a deeply-felt and extremely revealing adventure that teaches both her characters, and us, a little something about living authentically in a world that doesn’t feel like home sometimes.
PEACE, LOVE & BABY DUCKS comes out today, so order a copy or pick it up at your nearest indie bookstore. And don’t forget… there’s a huge contest going on through the end of May on Lauren’s website: www.laurenmyracle.com. Here are links to buy the book: Amazon, Shop Indie Bookstores.
For Readers: Fans of Lauren Myracle will not be disappointed. Like a superstar author should, she just keeps growing in her emphatic ability to draw a fleshed-out, complicated character. Some of the other characters in Carly’s world might be stereotypical, but Carly, her friend Roger and Anna are anything but ordinary. That’s the rub… and the eventual glory of the story. Carly narrates a wonderful journey full of the complex considerations I remember from my own prep school days (how old fart does that make me sound?!): how to be different without alienating everyone around you. Carly does both — from going too far to selling out her own beliefs — and it’s an awesome pleasure to read.
For Writers: I’ve mentioned a lot about the characterizations in PEACE, LOVE & BABY DUCKS already, so read for that. There is also an overwhelming study of what it means to be a sibling in this book. As an only child, I know I’ve tried to write siblings before without a lot of success. Myracle proves that sibling relations shouldn’t just be limited to a few scenes here and there. Being an older sister is in the very core of Carly’s character, without ever once being heavyhanded. This is a great sibling book, better than any I’ve read in a long time (save the family dynamic in IF I STAY). You’ll also enjoy how honestly Myracle tackles social dynamics like race and class.