By Melanie Hauser
Reviewed by Jodie
I thought I was going to hate ‘Jumble Pie’, Melanie Hauser’s coming of age story involving one Frankenstein like pie creation. As soon as I heard Emily’s voice, precocious and preening, I was annoyed. I was sure that Hauser had made one of her main characters deliberately annoying in order to give her readers some cheap laughs. However I soon realised that it would be impossible for me to stay stand offish from Emily and this story of friendship facilitated by pie, as the voices of the two female narrators Emily and Juliet captivate quickly.
The two girls meet in middle school where Emily immediately feels herself an outsider. She is unable to ask for help as she has some particularly proud parents who are sure she will excel and unfortunately they often remind her of these expectations. Juliet’s parents are now divorced and this brings consequences that make Juliet feel abnormal, for example her mom moves them into a house close to the school so Juliet doesn’t have to get the bus with all the rest of her school. An unsanctioned pie recipe brings these girls together and they find that being different is better with friends.
Their friendship is enabled by their uniqueness and they seem like the perfect pair but they respond to being different from other teenagers in opposite ways. Emily embraces her differences in an aggressive way, looking down on the main student body. Initially she is a hard character to like but the author quickly reveals that Emily’s manner is the elaborate defence mechanism of a vulnerable girl. It is the sadness and uncertainty of Emily revealed in an understated, raw style that makes the book so memorable. Juliet responds to her own status as ‘different’ with shame and wishes she could hide in the crowd. Once she is allowed to do that at college she begins to gain confidence.
The book follows the girl’s story as they grow into women. While Juliet changes, making new friends and becoming successful Emily falters and tries to hang on to the school years when she was praised as unique. This puts a strain on her friendship with Juliet as Emily becomes jealous of her friend’s ease and success. The dual first person narratives of Juliet and Emily keep the reader attached to the characters as they change, even when they act badly. Hauser has created a fantastic picture of the truths of female friendship using two characters that tell their stories honestly by following the creative writing tip included in the book, “Keep it simple.”. By allowing the girls to speak in such a straightforward way she creates realistic characters that the reader can empathise with.
If you analyse the book there are some uncomfortable message to be found. Pretty girls who long to excel at ordinary things will make it while plainer girls who strive hard and grasp for things will always find them beyond their reach. However the book’s sympathetic tone leads me to think that the author intends to encourage women to be truthful to themselves about who they are and what will make them happy. ‘Jumble Pie’ is a strengthening story that will have you making plans for the weekend with your best friend.
To download a copy of ‘Jumble Pie’ click HERE.