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Thursday, 23 April 2015

Strawberry Sisters: Perfectly Ella, Candy Harper

Pages: 272
Publisher: S&S
Release Date: 23rd April 2015
Edition: e-proof, NetGalley review copy

Other Titles by this Author: Have a Little Faith, Keep the Faith and as CJ Harper: The Disappeared, The Wilderness

Oldest sister Amelia wants to be Left Alone to have deep thoughts, so she’s grown a fringe to hide under. Second up is Chloe who’s sport-crazy and in training to be a wrestling star (this week anyway). Little sister Lucy is the cute one who’s training an army of earwigs. Then there’s Ella. The middle one who’s still trying to figure out what makes her ‘perfectly Ella’ and how to stand out in a house full of big personalities. And now there’s a new Strawberry Sister. Baby Kirsti who lives with Dad and his Finnish girlfriend.

Along with her sisters and one very tired Mum who’s struggling to keep it all together, Ella’s small home is crammed with almost-finished homework, nearly-clean jumpers and a vampire bunny called Buttercup. With so much going on, life can sometimes feel totally crazy but the Strawberry Sisters have a weapon against the craziness of the world they live in, each other.

I’m a huge fan of Candy Harper’s fun, heartwarming and incredibly sweet teen novels and Perfectly Ella was exception – I devoured it in one sitting.

Ella’s sisters are delightfully bonkers and I love them all. I have two sisters myself so I always enjoy it when that relationship is at the heart of a novel and the complex relationships between Ella, Amelia, Chloe and Lucy so multi-faceted. Like all siblings they bicker and argue and forget to consider how each other feel, but they ultimately have each other’s backs.

The girls’ mum and dad divorced a year and a half ago and everything has changed really fast – now Mum is super stressed with looking after them on her own while being a Year Two teacher and Dad has just had a baby with his girlfriend, Suvi. Baby Kirsti becomes the fifth Strawberry Sister and brings up some mixed feelings. All of the girls are struggling with the changes in their lives and that was portrayed realistically and sensitively. I remember going through the exact same emotions that the girls are: anger at Dad; jealousy of the new baby; feeling abandoned, ignored and not enough – Candy Harper hit the nail on the head.

I really liked that each Strawberry sister reacted in a different way, or at least focused on a different aspect of the fall out of the divorce. The result was the bittersweet, touching and brilliantly funny adventure of Perfectly Ella, but it really was Ella that sung for me. I empathised with her a lot. Ella’s voice is often drowned out by her loud, dominating sisters – all she has to define her is that she’s ‘nice’, and we know how English teachers view the use of that word… She puts everybody’s needs above her own in hope that everything will go smoothly and people will get on, often to her own detriment. I loved that she eventually found her voice and realised its significance.

I want more from the Strawberry sisters, please!

Thanks to S&S and NetGalley for the review copy.


Sophie 

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