Seventh grade is not turning out to be such a great year for Sweet Pea DiMarco (her real name is Patricia, but nobody calls her that except her eccentric advice columnist neighbor, Miss Flora Mae).  Her parents are recently divorced – but decided that the best way to keep things normal for Sweet Pea was for her dad to rent the house on other side of Miss Flora Mae’s and make everything look identical to her mom’s house, which, to be honest, kind of creeps Sweet Pea out.  Her cat, Cheese, must think so too, because he refuses to spend the night at her dad’s new house.  Her ex-best-friend, Kiera, now sits in front of her in class, which is definitely not awesome.  And Miss Flora Mae just cornered Sweet Pea on the sidewalk and announced that she’s going out of town and needs Sweet Pea to collect her column letters and water her plants – and then swore her to secrecy.  The last thing Sweet Pea needs is more secrets.

At least she has her forever best friend, Oscar.  They share a love of America’s Most Haunted, which they’re burning through on Netflix, and Oscar always has Sweet Pea’s back, no matter what.  Even when there is an unfortunate, um, incident, involving too much pizza, cake, and a trampoline at Kiera’s birthday party, which Sweet Pea sorta kinda crashes.  And even if she’s keeping secrets from Oscar – secrets she doesn’t want to keep, but Miss Flora Mae made her promise.  And secrets seem to lead to more secrets.

When Sweet Pea accidentally discovers a Dear Miss Flora Mae letter with very, very familiar handwriting while gathering up Flora’s mail, she makes a decision that will change her family and her friendships even more than they already have – she decides to answer it.  Sometimes, change is good, and sometimes, it’s not-so-good.  It turns out you always have to deal with it, though – and it’s how you decide to deal with it that defines who you are.

Author Julie Murphy has already proved her awesomeness with her young adult knockout novels Dumplin’, Puddin’, and Ramona Blue, and Dear Sweet Pea rocks the middle grade scene just as fabulously as her older sister novels (there’s a even a great nod to the world of Dumplin’ and Puddin’!).  Sweet Pea is funny, full of heart, and a great little human, even when she’s muddling through trying to figure out what the best way is to be a friend, a daughter, and an almost-eighth grader.  Oscar is a staunch and stalwart friend, and who doesn’t love a cat named Cheese?  Brimming with family, friendship, life advice, and a whole lot of love, middle grade readers, no matter how old, won’t want to miss Julie Murphy’s latest.  Check it out at the library!