Title: A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids
Author: Shelley Tougas
Summary: Mary Margaret Miller's life is turning upside down, and even her beloved saints don't seem to be helping. Not only is her family moving away from their hometown, she has to live with her grandparents while her parents try to earn enough money so they can get settled somewhere else. She's been tapped to be junior bridesmaid to her cousin's wedding, but since her cousin is terribly shy and her grandmother is (to put it nicely) a total steamroller.
Then there's the cute boy next door, who is (gasp!) a Unitarian and keeps asking her challenging questions about being Catholic. Let's not even mention what she did to the local bully, back at home. Surely there's a saint for all of this . . . right?
First Impressions: This was adorable! And included a surprisingly thoughtful examination of maturing faith.
Later On: One of my very favorite themes in children's and YA is faith and religion, because it's so rare (other than "religion ebil" or "religion is old-fashioned and naive") and yet so important in the life of many kids and families.
Mary, who is from a Catholic family, is obsessed with the saints and all their weird specialties. As a lifelong Catholic myself, I have to say this wasn't so much a feature of the religion as I've experienced it, as it was one of those random obsessions that kids sometimes get. Certainly the saints are important to Catholics, but Mary uses them to try and organize and control her life, and part of the faith theme of the book is that it's not nearly that simple.
Of course, there's more at work here than Mary Margaret's deepening faith. For such a funny book, this covers surprisingly serious topics, including bullying, economic instability and its stresses on families, and inter-family conflict, whether it's about having a giant spectacular wedding or the differing practices of religion. You can certainly read it strictly for fun, but there is more there for kids to engage with if they choose.
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