Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. I received a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)
A devastating tragedy takes teenaged Iris and her five younger sisters away from their middle-class life and to a place that leaves them staring over at advantages they’re barred from. But the sisters, especially the two oldest, are in for more they’ll have to learn—some of it the hard way—to bloom as they’re meant to in Petrified Flowers by author Joiya Morrison-Efemini.
It wasn’t until I’d already decided to read this young adult novel that I found out it’s a novel-in-verse. This author writes with the deft and nuanced hand of a true poet and novelist combined, illustrating through selective, lyrical language how verbosity isn’t required to tell a deep, complex, and hard-hitting story.
Through a cast of convincingly flawed characters, this novel addresses so much, whether for extended or brief moments: joy, grief, race, privilege, poverty, murder, rape, faith, hope, love, redemption. I was awed here, cut to the core there, and in for some surprises. I love it when I don’t foresee a story’s every twist and turn from a mile away.
And even as a longtime ChristFic fan, I’ll admit this book has more Bible-y and salvation-talk than I usually go for in fiction. But the author is indeed a storyteller, and I wasn’t made to feel like the story became a prop for a sermon. The spiritual content and context fits the plot and characters well.
Now, the book has a few minor errors in grammar unrelated to artistic license, and the way the story eventually ties up so much becomes fairy-tale-ish. Also, I wonder what message the book may send to some readers about money, and how they might feel if they’re truly without certain advantages or opportunities. However, the story does speak to the impact of self-sabotage, to either missing or recognizing and accepting one’s blessings, and it conveys that even a life of faith won’t be a cakewalk exempt from pain.
Whether readers are within or past their YA stage of life, many would do well to read this poignant, sobering, beautiful, brilliantly written novel.