As Simple As It Seems by Sarah Weeks (HarperCollins, 2010, 192pp.)
Verbena Colter is in for the shock of her life when, at age 11, she discovers that she was adopted as a baby after her alcoholic mother gave her up, and the reason for her trouble learning to read is because she suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome. How can she stay as her mother’s “Sweetpea” when she knows that she’s no longer the person she thought she was? While it’s a nice story that charts a young girl’s growth after a life-changing event, Weeks choses to use fetal alcohol syndrome as a plot device to initiate Verbena’s self-doubt and introspection rather than make it the focus of the book. This in itself would have been very interesting, and while the hero’s journey is certainly a worthy cause to write about, in this case, it doesn’t leave much to the imagination. The first-person “voice” of the narrative is also a little disappointing. Although we learn at the end that Verbena is recounting her childhood years as an adult, the mature tone doesn’t quite fit the overall story, making the prose ring a little false. Recommended for Ages 9-12.
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