It’s been a while since I’ve devoured a book as sweet and sticky as Dear Opl. Shelley Sackier’s breakout novel is charming and sophisticated, written to be both entertaining and educational.
Opal is thirteen years old, and life simply isn’t going well for her. Her father has passed away from cancer, her younger brother is dressing up in girls clothing, and her mother is simply… absent. With nothing but sugar to offer sweetness in her life, Opal fills the holes in her heart with Hershey’s, bonbons, and bright jellybeans. Of course, gorging herself on sweets isn’t without its consequences: Opal has gained some weight – a lot of weight, actually – and now, the only thing people seem to see when they look at her is her double chins.
I found this book an absolute pleasure. Opal is a witty, flawed main character with plenty of depth. I felt the narrative was genuine, without contrived reactions or conflicts meant to up the stakes artificially (minus one of the events at the end of the book, which felt a bit underplayed, but I think for the audience this book is meant for, it won’t be an issue). I loved G-Pa, and Ollie, and Opal’s friend, Summer. The book takes real issues, offers its readers opportunities to think about obesity, and the solutions to that… but most of all, its undercurrent of not being fearful of change is what makes Dear Opl a real gem. My only gripes are really not applicable to a book for this age group, but they include a feeling that some character arcs were somewhat rushed to completion, and that I would have liked to have had a lot more time with each of the different elements of the book. To that end, the book is left rather open, so maybe we’ll have a chance to see Opal and her friends in another book soon!
I’d recommend this book to any middle grade or young adult reader looking for a book with lots of laughs, and not laden with romance. And, if you’re not satisfied with only the humor inside the book, I suggest checking out peakperspective.com, the blog home of Shelley Sackier.
Some quotes to wet your palette: