Review posted November 22, 2013.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013. 201 pages.
2013 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #6 Children's Fiction
Heaven Is Paved with Oreos is a follow-up to Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s wonderful Dairy Queen trilogy about D.J. Schwenk. You don’t have to have read the earlier trilogy, but those who have will enjoy D.J.’s presence in this book. As a matter of fact, I thought there was a bit more of D.J. than felt quite realistic, but it was fun to feel still in touch with her.
This book is about Sarah Zorn, the girlfriend of D.J.’s little brother, Curtis. Or is she his girlfriend? Turns out, Sarah came up with a Brilliant Outflanking Strategy, which turned out not to be so brilliant.
But it seemed brilliant at the time. Sarah and Curtis were doing lots of things together, and people kept teasing them and asking them if they were going out. Finally, out of frustration, Sarah said Yes. Suddenly the person who asked didn’t even care any more.
Curtis frowned. “Why would she keep asking us that question if she doesn’t care?”
“She did care,” I said, thinking hard. “Until we said yes. Then she stopped thinking about it.” That was when I had my eureka moment. Eureka is what you say when you have a massive scientific discovery. “That’s it! Curtis, no one cares if we’re really going out. They just like thinking we are. They don’t like it when we say they’re wrong. So let’s let them think it!”
But that backfires after awhile. During the summer before high school, Sarah’s grandmother, Z, is taking her to Rome. Just before she leaves, Curtis says he doesn’t like the lying to people. So they break up even though they were never really going out. So Sarah can’t even send postcards to her best friend.
The bulk of the book is about Sarah’s time in Rome with Z, since it’s in the form of her journal for the summer. She writes about what she’d say in a postcard to Curtis – if she were writing to him.
But Z has her own drama on the trip when she turns 64, and Sarah has to step up and be responsible in a foreign country.
Catherine Gilbert Murdock knows how to write about kids that feel very real in situations that are exceptional but feel normal. I hope more books about Sarah will follow this one.