Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Rachel Vail
For ages 12 to 14
HarperCollins, 2009   ISBN: 978-0060890452

Summer is almost here and Phoebe and her four best friends, Kristyn, Gabrielle, Zhara, and Ann, are planning their eighth grade graduation party. As the five girls all belong to well-to-do families, their party is going to be an extravagant and costly event. Discussions about the invitations, the photographer, their dresses, the venue, the guest list, and the decorations fill the girl’s lives, and none of them even consider that there is anything wrong with hosting a party that requires that they spend thousands of dollars and wear four hundred dollar dresses made by Vera Wang.

Normally Phoebe’s parents would not think much of spending money on a party of this kind. Phoebe’s mother is a very successful woman who makes a great deal of money. They can afford the house with the pool, the housekeeper, the piano and tennis lessons, the Porsche, and the shopping sprees at high-end department stores.

Then, without any warning, Phoebe’s perfect gold-dusted life comes crashing down. Phoebe’s mother loses her job after one of her financial stock deals goes sideways. She and her husband tell their three daughters what is going on, but they do not discuss what this change will mean, from a practical point of view. Phoebe is worried and begins to feel the undercurrent of change heading her way, but she chooses to ignore it. Then, when Phoebe and her mother go to buy Phoebe’s party dress, they find out that none of Phoebe’s mother’s credit cards work. Bathed in humiliation, Phoebe and her mother leave the store empty-handed.

The day after this happens Phoebe’s father explains that they can no longer pay their portion of the party bill and that four hundred dollar dresses are now out of the question. Such extravagances simply are not possible while Phoebe’s mother is trying to sort out her financial problems. He offers to talk to Kristyn’s mother, who is doing a lot of the party planning, but Phoebe insists that she can handle telling her friends about the family’s change in fortune. The problem is that she cannot seem to find a way to do this. How can she tell Kristyn that her family can no longer afford to pay for their share of the party expenses? She knows that Kristyn has no patience or tolerance for people who do belong in her golden circle of wealth and privileged, and she can be vicious to people who live outside it.

In this engaging novel for teens we meet a girl who has everything, and who is, quite frankly, a spoiled brat. When the family hits a financial bump in the road Phoebe is forced to look at her life, and herself, in a new way, and she finds that she does not like what she sees. It is interesting to see how she adapts, and what she learns along the way.