Sunday, July 21, 2013

Heaven is Paved with Oreos by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Sara and her best friend Curtis got tired of everyone in middle school teasing them about whether or not they were dating.  So they decided to just to say they were.  Now it's the summer before high school, and things are changing.  Curtis "breaks up" with Sara, saying he doesn't want a fake girlfriend.  He wants a real one.  Sara isn't sure of her feelings, and jumps at the chance when her quirky grandmother, Z, invites her on a trip to Rome.  But the trip is more than Sara bargained for as she discovers things about her family her never knew.

Very sweet.  Much like Dairy Queen, it was heartfelt and thoughtful and middle grade girls, especially the ones who loved Dairy Queen, are going to love this.  The Curtis that Sara is "dating" is, of course, the Curtis from Dairy Queen, DJ's little brother.  DJ shows up in Heaven is Paved with Oreos as well, playing an important but small role.

Sara is very smart and doesn't have a lot of close friends.  This doesn't matter because she has Curtis, but then she doesn't.  We, of course, know she like likes him the whole time, but it takes Sara a while to realize that.  When Curtis "breaks up" with her, she's hurt and upset and confused about why.  But lucky she gets to distract herself with an international trip.

So the relationship aspect is one part of the story and then the family issues are the other part.  Sara has a mom and dad and little brother, and a grandmother, her father's mother, who they call Z.  Z is not like most grandmothers.  She didn't raise Sara's father, having gotten pregnant young and left the baby for her parent's to raise while she went off to the big city.  Z is arty and free and adventurous and Sara loves her.  It isn't until the trip that she starts thinking about how all the cool stories that Z tells her about her life meant that she wasn't there for her dad when he was growing up.

Sara learns that Z had a much bigger reason for going to Italy then just as a trip for the two of them, and it shakes Sara up quite a bit.  She starts to think about how people are not always what they appear to be, on the outside.  They are upsetting discoveries, and it takes talking to her family to figure things out.  And then she decides what she needs to do is also talk to Curtis.

So there's just the right amount of relationship/romance and just the right amount of family angst and secret discoveries.  It was a lovely book and if you have middle grade girls it is a must buy.

Heaven is Paved with Oreos comes out September 23, 2013.

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