I won a copy of this book through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. And one day, not long after receiving the email notification from Goodreads, I received a package from Amazon. The author, Nicole O’Dell, had bought me a copy of her book! How cool is that? I’ve never received a giveaway book so quickly before! I was really impressed and grateful.
The Wishing Pearl is the first in a planned series of Diamond Estates novels. Diamond Estates is a Christian outreach center, a residential treatment facility for troubled teens. In book one, we meet Olivia Mansfield, whom O’Dell manages to introduce to us in a way in which we can immediately sympathize with her. The opening scene has her playing her oboe: “The oboe understood her. It sang her somber song. Melancholy and forlorn…Perfect words to describe its cry and Olivia.” Right away, you want to learn about Olivia and her sadness. And you find she is a nice girl. She’s not a bad girl, but she is losing her way — she starts to make poor choices. As Olivia navigates these choices, the author expertly shows her thought process, which is legitimately and believably one of a sixteen-year-old girl. Eventually, Olivia’s life becomes unmanageable, and she reaches a breaking point which ultimately takes her to Diamond Estates. Her flight begins more as running away from danger in fear than running toward God or rescue, but Olivia is able to learn to trust in God and regain the faith that she had lost as a child. This book chronicles her journey.
Rather than go into the plot in-depth, I’m going to touch on some aspects I particularly enjoyed. First, Olivia’s relationship with her brother Jake who is deaf. He and Olivia have a very special relationship. The novel uses their relationship, as well as another deaf character, to show compassion and empathy toward people who are different. Second, there are humorous moments that help keep the book and its serious topics from feeling too heavy. Third, I enjoyed getting to know Olivia’s three roommates. The girls’ group dynamic is very well done. And although there is an occasional weighty one-on-one discussion, the lighthearted moments show the girls as friends and family. This character-centered aspect helps keep the novel from feeling like an Afterschool Special. Finally, I liked that the mean girl — yes, every book has one — is served a portion of grace rather than revenge. This is definitely an idea worth exploring in teen literature!
Where the novel shines is in its portrayal of thoughts and feelings that seem like they are coming from a real teen. Nicole O’Dell does an exceptional job giving voice to all the feelings of doubt, shame, inadequacy, fear, etc., that a teen — especially a girl — can feel. For teens who are faced with tough situations that give rise to hard questions, fear, and discouragement, the novel provides guidance and hope. At one point, Olivia is encouraged to “fight the lies”. The explanation that follows this advice, touching on what those lies are, is a terrific lesson that people of all ages can benefit from. Curious? Read the book!
I really enjoyed The Wishing Pearl and would highly recommend it! I look forward to reading the next installment, The Embittered Ruby, when it comes out next April.