Monday, June 26, 2017

Call Me Sunflower by Miriam Spitzer Franklin, 2017

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Sunny Beringer hates her first name—her real first name—Sunflower. And she hates that her mom has suddenly left behind her dad, Scott, and uprooted their family miles away from New Jersey to North Carolina just so she can pursue some fancy degree. Sunny has to live with a grandmother she barely knows, and she’s had to leave her beloved cat and all her friends behind. And no one else seems to think anything is wrong.

So she creates “Sunny Beringer’s Totally Awesome Plan for Romance”—a list of sure-fire ways to make her mom and Scott fall madly in love again, including:

Send Mom flowers from a “Secret Admirer” to make Scott jealous and make him regret letting them move so far away.
Make a playlist of Scott’s favorite love songs—the mushier the better—and make sure it’s always playing in the car.
Ask them about the good old days when they first fell in love.
But while working on a photo album guaranteed to make Mom change her mind and rush them right back home, Sunny discovers a photo—one that changes everything.

Sunny’s family, the people she thought she could trust most in the world, have been keeping an enormous secret from her. And she’ll have to reconcile her family’s past and present, or she’ll lose everything about their future.

(256 pages)

Call Me Sunflower is a rather . . . odd book. I guess that's a good thing, but I think it doesn't quite hit the mark with me.

For one thing, I'm rather horrified that Sunny's parents kept her so in the dark about her past and their present relationship. No one should be that clueless and uncertain about their family dynamics, and her mother has done both Sunny and her sister a huge disservice by keeping everything murky. Also, this whole idea of a fractured family that was never truly together (where the mom adopted a baby and the dad agreed to act as the father to a kid he had no direct ties to) seemed really odd. Sunny's mother and the father should have either married and adopted together, or should have gone their separate ways altogether.

I don't know, I just feel like the whole dynamic was really weird. Don't get me wrong here, I have no issue with a single mother adopting babies–in fact, a friend of mine and her sister were both adopted as babies by a single mother! It's really the father figure role that doesn't quite add up for me. Besides that, I also thought the way the relationship between Sunny and her grandmother played out was a little strange (and the plotline surrounding her grandmother's fur store was especially forced). I did like her interactions in school, which were slightly along the beaten path of middle school drama but which nevertheless rang true. The increasingly-distant emails between Sunny and her best friend Madeline from her old hometown felt especially real to me, as someone who has exchanged more than her fair share of those moving-away conversations over the years.

To be honest, I think that this particular type of quirky story is going to sit really well with some readers and just not be quite right for others. I fall into the latter category, but you might be in the former; if you do decide to give Call Me Sunflower a try, let us know in the comments section what you think of it!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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