Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Wednesday Review: Picture Imperfect

Hey, look at that!  The Wednesday Review is back!  Here's my subject:

Great new middle grade book with a fun cover!

Introduction:  Picture Imperfect is a middle grade book by Susan Maas about JJ (Jada Jane), a twelve-year old girl on a mission.  A would-be photographer, JJ is trying to find the perfect photo to enter in a contest at the fair - a photo that could win her a fancy new camera and prove that she has a gift for photography.  But getting the perfect shot isn't easy, and JJ has to fight for her dreams at a time when everything in her life seems to be changing all around her.

My Review:  I really enjoyed this book - I even read it twice in fairly quick succession.  One thing I like is that the characters are all well written.

1)  JJ is great - she's a sweet kid, but she has no problem showing a little attitude when pressed.  She's very close with her great-grandma, has a pretty normal relationship with her parents and older brother, and a much more complicated one with her Aunt Lissa, whose arrival to share JJ's room for an unspecified length of time while she looks for a new job opens the book.

2)  Aunt Lissa herself is a fun character, an adult who doesn't always act like it.  To be fair, of course, she is under a lot of stress trying to find a new job and all.

3)  JJ's best friend is Kat, an imaginative and mischievous girl whose flare for dramatics threatens to get JJ in trouble, but she's always there to help find Sasha the cat or pose for photos.

4)  Gram, JJ's great-grandmother, is a lady with a heart for God.  She's well depicted, and the impact she's had on JJ's life over the years is easy to see throughout the book.

5)  The rest of the characters, including JJ's brother and parents, also seem like real people you might actually interact with in real life, even though their roles are relatively small.

The plot of Picture Imperfect is relatively low-stakes - they're not trying to defeat an evil wizard or save the city or anything - but there's plenty of fun to engage the reader early on, and the stakes get steadily higher (from multiple angles) as the story unfolds.  And I may not be terribly concerned about photography myself, but I can see how important it is to JJ, so her actions and reactions toward anything photo-related all make sense.  Maas also manages to keep the pacing smooth and relatively quick, primarily through JJ's quips (like when she imagines titles for photos) and the countdown to fair day.

If the book were only about the photos and Aunt Lissa, I wouldn't be as enthusiastic about it; those are lovely stories but you can read them and leave them and never really think about them again.  It's JJ's relationship with Gram and that part of the story that capture my attention.  That's what gives the book some real weight and takes it from charming to quality.  I was also relieved that the book doesn't have a fairy-tale ending (because it easily could have).  Instead, while some things work out for JJ, other things don't.  What matters is how she has changed in the process.

My only complaint about this book is that the cover (at least of my copy) curls outward.

Copyright: 2015
Publisher: Ashberry Lane
Length: 228 Pages
Genre/Age: Middle Grade

My rating: 4 stars