Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone: The Entomological Tales of Augustus T. Percival by Dene Low
Publication: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (June 1, 2009), Paperback ARC, 200ish pages / ISBN 0547152507
Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s
Find @ Amazon or IndieBound
Read: August 2009
Challenge: The 2009 Pub Challenge (#5)
First sentence: There is something terribly wrong with Mr. Augustus T. Percival.
In one sentence: If this was a movie, it’d be A Series of Unfortunate Events mixed with Little Miss Sunshine.
I read the ARC of this, but I actually got it from BookMooch and not from a publisher. Yay, kind people on BookMooch!
I don’t remember where I first learned of Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone, but I have a hunch it was on a book blog somewhere. Aha! It was Bookslut! I was immediately drawn to the name and the cover, and while the book itself didn’t really live up to my expectations, I enjoyed reading it nevertheless.
Summary from Amazon:
You would think Petronella’s sixteenth birthday would be cause for celebration. After all, fashionable friends are arriving at her country estate near London, teas are being served, and her coming out party promises to be a resplendent affair. Everything is falling nicely into place, until, suddenly—it isn’t. For Petronella discovers that her guardian, Uncle Augustus T. Percival, has developed a most unVictorian compulsion: He must eat bugs. Worse still, because he is her guardian, Uncle Augustus is to attend her soiree and his current state will most definitely be an embarrassment.
During the festivities, when Petronella would much rather be sharing pleasantries with handsome Lord James Sinclair (swoon), important guests are disappearing, kidnapping notes are appearing, many of the clues are insects, and Uncle Augustus is surreptitiously devouring evidence. It’s more than one sixteen-year-old girl should have to deal with. But, truth be told, there is far more yet to come…
My favorite parts of the book were actually the secondary characters, especially Petronella’s uncle (the Augustus T. Percival in the title). I liked the plot, too, especially once the wackiness started taking over and made things more interesting. I laughed, I sighed, I had some fun. The language seemed spot-on, though I’m no expert on Edwardian speech, and I was surprisingly fascinated with the clothing described within.
Although I enjoyed some parts very much, unfortunately the parts I didn’t like outnumbered the parts I did. I didn’t really like Petronella, since she seems too obsessed with her love interest and being respectable. That makes for some funny scenes, but it also makes for a slightly boring character, especially compared with the interesting, unusual characters she’s surrounded with. Her personality didn’t seem to mesh with what other characters said about her: that she was a mischievous troublemaker who knew how to have fun and went out and had it. The new “adult” Petronella seemed entirely too bland to have actually done any of the interesting things she was supposed to have done, though she does become more vibrant near the climax of the plot (i.e. where she actually saves nearly everyone).
Because Petronalla was so bland, the strangeness of the events around her were not so much left of center as completely off the map. I don’t know if that makes the weirdness better or worse– but I do know that the strange bits were also the most exciting, and Petronella’s drabness dragged the book down. Sometimes it rose above, but mostly I was just confused re:how I was supposed to feel about Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone. On the one hand, it’s funny and unusual and really cute. On the other hand, it’s kinda boring and the tone is all over the place.
Overall, I liked Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone. It has some problems, but it wasn’t bad and I’ll for sure read the sequels (two of them in progress, according to Ms. Low’s website!). And I’ll for sure try out Ms. Low’s other books, as well, which look just as quirky and potentially adorkable. I just probably won’t, uh, buy them. So, try it out if you think it has potential– just maybe get it from the library or a book trading website before buying it.