Friday, December 6, 2013

Heaven is Paved with Oreos by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Sarah Zorn, 14, has been friends and science partner with Curtis Schwenk for a long time.  Everyone, except Emily Enemy, thinks they are a couple and there's lots of teasing about it.  So Sarah comes up with a plan called the "Brilliant Outflanking Strategy" in which they just tell everyone that they are a couple even though they really aren't.  End of teasing.

But just before Sarah is whisked off to Rome by her rather hippyish grandmother, Z, Curtis tells her he doesn't want to live a lie by letting people think they are a couple.  Still, when her grandmother gives Sarah a journal to records her Roman adventures, Sarah finds her thoughts often turning to Curtis.  But does she like him in a "boy-liked" way?

Sarah has lots of time to think about this in Rome.  She and Z are supposed to be do the seven church pilgrimage, but after they see church number 6, things begin to get odd.  On July 14, a Sunday and also Bastille Day, it is Z's 64th birthday.  She decides to buy herself a new lipstick and to go off the see another church, but ends up sitting on the famous Spanish Steps instead - for a long time, while Sarah walks around alone.  Z spends the next day in bed, listless.  Sarah and Z never get to see the seventh church to complete their pilgrimage before they head back home on Wednesday, July 17th.

I can't go further without giving too much away, but you do find out what happened with Z in Rome and also how Sarah resolves her friendship with Curtis.

It was nice to return to Red Bend, Wisconsin and revisit the Schwenks, even if D.J. played only a minor, but important role in Heaven is Paved with Oreos.

I wanted to like this book so much, but I just didn't.  This is too bad because Catherine Gilbert Murdock's Dairy Queen YA series is really good.  There are some humorous moments, but I can't say there was any part of the book that gave me a warm feeling.  I think the journal style means that we are too focused on Sarah and her thoughts and, Sarah's voice just didn't resonate as that of a 14 year old.  In fact, it felt a 12 year old Junie B. Jones pretending to be 14, and grandma Z didn't feel much older.

In addition, the Oreo theme felt really forced and as much as I love Oreos, I just didn't think it worked.  It was really purposeless.

I was also a bit disappointed to discover that the travel book that plays such a big part of the book, Two Lady Pilgrims in Rome by Lillian Hesselgrave, wasn't a real book.  It would have been fun to read.  And learning the she and her travel companion were lesbians, made me wonder why that information was included.  For future use, perhaps?

Even though I didn't care for Heaven is Paved with Oreos, the fact of the matter is that Catherine Gilbert Murdock is a favorite author of teens, and I suspect more than one middle grader has read the Dairy Queen novels and they will definitely find their way to this book, especially with that very attractive cover.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was borrowed from a friend

1 comment:

  1. Sorry to hear that you didn't like this book! I haven't read it yet but I'm always searching for books for my middle school girls and hoped this one would work for them. But I agree. I hate books where the voice rings false. It probably won't work for my girls either. Cute cover though and great title!


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