PEARL by Jo Knowles

I finished reading an advance copy of this YA novel on an airplane heading home from IRA, quietly wiping tears from the corners of my eyes and hoping the lady next to me wouldn’t notice. If she did, though, it would have been okay… I’d just have to tell her about PEARL.

Its author, Jo Knowles, is someone I’m lucky enough to count as a friend. She’s one of the smartest, kindest people I’ve ever met, and I loved her first two books, so I wasn’t surprised when this one crept quietly up and swept me away, too.  This book keeps its secrets close to its heart, so I’m going to tell you only what I can without giving them away.

Pearl Collatti has lived a pretty mundane life with her mom and grandfather, Gus.  She hangs out with her best friend Henry and watches Days of Our Lives with his mom. But when Gus dies, family secrets fly like milkweed fluff in the wind, and everything is different – Pearl’s relationship with her mother, her friendship with Henry, and her image of the grandfather she thought she knew.

PEARL is so many things… it’s part family drama, part romance, and part mystery. It’s peopled with characters so rich, so beautifully imperfect, that it’s hard to believe they’re not real.   It’s a book about the cost of keeping secrets, trouble that turns beautiful, and painful truths that make room for love. It is a book that believes in love, too…even after years have passed.  This is one I’ll be thinking about for a long, long time – and a book that I think will be an amazing choice for teen book clubs and literature circles when it comes out this summer.