Saturday, April 2, 2011

Review: Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone by Dene Low

Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone
by Dene Low
YA, Historical Fiction
208 pages
Published: 2009
4 of 5 stars


You would think Petronella’s sixteenth birthday would be cause for celebration. After all, fashionable friends are arriving at her country estate near London, teas are being served, and her coming out party promises to be a resplendent affair. Everything is falling nicely into place, until, suddenly—it isn’t. For Petronella discovers that her guardian, Uncle Augustus T. Percival, has developed a most unVictorian compulsion: He must eat bugs. Worse still, because he is her guardian, Uncle Augustus is to attend her soiree and his current state will most definitely be an embarrassment.
During the festivities, when Petronella would much rather be sharing pleasantries with handsome Lord James Sinclair (swoon), important guests are disappearing, kidnapping notes are appearing, many of the clues are insects, and Uncle Augustus is surreptitiously devouring evidence. It’s more than one sixteen-year-old girl should have to deal with. But, truth be told, there is far more yet to come . . .
-from Goodreads


This book is a good time. It is an amusing satire of high society. It is mildly disgusting, and contains much to stretch (even shatter) your belief. But you want to know something? So what! I enjoyed it. One big reason why was the writing. 

This was one of those books that really uses language - uses words that have meaning and connotations, putting "big" words together into sentences that makes you sigh with relief. Like stretching. The ecstasy of using your mind and working your vocabulary! The beauty of words strung together to sound like music! It's like pulling on my favorite pair of pajama pants, or taking a deep breath when I didn't realize I was in a stuffy room. Enough metaphors? All right. But I need a word for this kind of book because I can think of at least one other I will review soon that falls into this category. Ideas? Please... 

So, this book doesn't take itself seriously, and that is refreshing for a book that takes place in this time period. Petronella really wants to do the right thing (and have some adventure) and doesn't want to hurt her uncle, but she still cares about society.... It is a quandary! Her swooning over James is comical in the sense that I felt it was making fun of all the other well-known swooning. 

Only the four main characters have any depth. Every single authority figure is ridiculous. The phrase "bumbling idiots" comes to mind. This was so blatant that it was obviously done on purpose. It created the dynamic, found in so many other YA books, of the children having to solve the problems on their own. It was interesting to see the dynamic used without having unloving, uninvolved guardians, as is the norm. I had the privilege of listening to Dene Low talk about her book, and she mentioned this book was written as an outlet while working on her dissertation. She was frustrated with academia and authority in general, and suddenly Petronella's world made sense to me. 

So. This book is an uplifting, sniggering kind of good time. Have fun!

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