About the book: Perky Girl: The Amazing Life of Bienna Molo is by Vera I. Roberts. Most notably, Miss Roberts penned this book at age 9, and went through the publishing process at age 11. The book chronicles the adventures and life of Bienna from just before she enters preschool until her death at a ripe old age. We learn about Bienna’s family, school experiences, friends, career, marriage, and her own children.
Perky Girl is a mixed bag.
Most of me really got a kick out of this book. Miss Roberts divides the overall book into individual volumes – one for each year of Bienna’s education, and then for her adult life. Each volume is then divided into chapters – chapters might be as short as a single page (or screen, on my Kindle Fire), but they make sense. Each chapter focuses on a single event or topic that held particular importance that year for Bienna. The character, in many ways, reminds me of girls I have known, as a teacher and a community member, in the early elementary grades. For the most part, Bienna is curious, energetic, and open to learning.
Bienna’s life is chock full of narratives of her adventures and accomplishments, and many are quite over the top. To be honest, after a while, I really found myself in eyeroll-mode. Her many, many triumphs (sometimes outrageous) would likely go over better if the chapters are read over the course of many days – say, as part of a daily reading. A great deal of the time, the tales of Bienna read like fantasies. Not like fairy tales, per se, but often unrealistic and self-absorbed day dreams of young girls the pre-tween age group. I think it really sunk in to me when I realized I would have found the stories more.., readable… if Bienna’s stories did not always feature her as the winner, the best, the one applauded by the entire school. But, I get it – it’s just a story (or a series of stories) and it’s all in fun.
But, sometimes… Bienna is just obnoxious. Sorry. I can’t think of another word. The world revolves around her (yes, I know, it’s her story), but the stories sometimes smack of… superiority. Of course the entire school would applaud her, of course she would win <insert any competition ever here>…
And then, there are some episodes (not many), when Bienna is flat out mean. Only once does an adult in the story call her to task. In another situation, Bienna apologizes on her own, and quite sincerely. But the third episode in the book – which takes place when Bienna is in high school – in that episode, there is no remorse, no being called to task. Not only does Bienna get away with it (because, “luckily” the teachers were looking the other way), but ultimately, the person she is mean to apologizes to her. There’s more to the scene, but this aspect of it troubled me, particularly in the anti-bullying atmosphere that currently prevails.
I’m also troubled by the plot treatment of Bienna’s older runaway sister, and her ultimate return to the family. This is a serious matter for families – including younger siblings – of runaways, and the topic was not handled with any sort of sensitivity at all. In fact, it’s a prime example of the “fantasy” aspect of the writing that I mentioned.
I firmly disagree with the age recommendation for this book. The recommended age is give as 5 to 14. I think that 5 is a very good lower end, but I would not offer this book to a girl older than 9, perhaps 10. And I really think that the book would not be well received by girls older than that, for the following reason. One of the aspects of the writing that I enjoyed was how the writer’s voice reflected Bienna’s age. In preschool, the voicing of the text was simple. Complexity increased as Bienna aged, and went through each school year. However, at some point, around upper elementary school, this progress completely stopped. Bienna’s stories from early elementary school feel like a child telling her own story (or what she wished had been her own story). Bienna’s time as a teen is pretty unrealistic (spoken as the mother of a teen and a former high school teacher), but her stories about adulthood sound, well, not so much unrealistic and just born of a ridiculous notion of what that period of life is like.
Overall, the book is a nice change. There isn’t a single topic issue in this book that gave me pause – no questionable language, no extreme violence. In fact, this has to be one of the best edited Kindle editions that I’ve ever read. I generally find a typo here or there, but this copy seemed absolutely pristine. That said, while I think Miss Roberts is to be applauded for an excellent product for a person of her age, I am not convinced it is of an appropriate quality for consumption by the same age group.
One more thing. This is important.
If you get the paperback copy of the book, or look closely on any of the sales listings for the book, you will see a website associated with the book listed, as well as a quiz and club for girls. When I went to check it out, I discovered that the website for the book is no longer live. Take my word for this: Do NOT search on “perky girl” in an effort to find the website. Doing so resulted in pages of links to porn sites.
In fact, the only way I got results that were restricted to this book was by searching using the terms “perky girl Bienna Molo.” Still, no book site, but I did come across several website blogs reviews, a Kirkus review, and sales listings on multiple websites.
I’m off to purge my browser history now.
Perky Girl: The Amazing Life of Bienna Molo is available for purchase many places online, including in paperback and Kindle formats on Amazon.