Hi guys! Today is the first day of school for all of us here on LILbooKlovers, and I’m actually pretty excited about my junior year. Today, I’m posting another review here on the blog, and today I’m reviewing Bumbling Bea by Deborah Baldwin!
About the Book
Beatrice thinks she has no talent, but that doesn’t stop her from auditioning for the annual middle school play. Easy! Except Michiko, a new girl from Japan, shows up and ruins everything. So begins Beatrice’s humorous and diabolical plan to scare away Michiko. But Michiko has goals of her own with no plans to leave soon. Then there’s that “other” girl, Bumbling Bea, who is such a blabbermouth. What’s a girl to do? Plenty.
Disclaimer: I received a free signed copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review in any way.
Overall Thoughts: A long time ago (like a few months actually) I read a short story called “The Nose” in English. One of the weirdest stories I have read. Even though it was 30 pages, I couldn’t get through even 2 without stopping! I had the same experience with Bumbling Bea, and I did not like it. This is probably the first 1 star review I’m giving a book in a long time, and that means something. Bumbling Bea just wasn’t the best book I have read, especially compared to the books I read before and after it. I did like the premise, though, and I was expecting a comical, light read, but that’s not what I got. I know that some people will enjoy this book, and I have no doubt about that, but for me, it’s one that I didn’t like at all. I just don’t like it at all, and even though I reserve 1-stars for DNFs, I can only give it 1 star.
Writing Style: The writing style is what bugged me the most about this book. There was just too must telling and too much unnecessary detail/backstory. One of the biggest “make or break” parts of a novel is the voice of the narrator, and I learned from my creative writing that in writing fiction you must show the details and only include those that are necessary. Pardon if I start going into “mini-lesson” mode; that’s how I convey my feelings sometimes.
First, regarding showing, I was told what happened. I wasn’t shown what was happening. Anton Chekhov, a famous Russian playwright, once wrote, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” As a reader, I want to see what is going on. I want to be transported into the story. I want to feel the wind caressing my body as it provides me relief from the heat of the glaring sun, not just being told that the wind was blowing. I was told what happened during the day, which did not contribute to the plot (I’ll talk about that in a minute). I didn’t feel like I wanted to keep on going. In fact, I set it down for a while and finished both The One Memory of Flora Banks and The Bakersville Dozen before I picked it up again.
Second, regarding unnecessary details, I would sometimes encounter a page that is full of unnecessary backstory and details, and it honestly stalled the plot. It’s good to insert some flashbacks and backstory in some spots, and I love them, but they weren’t used in the best way in this book. I just kept going, “Do I really need to know this?” as I continued the novella.
Also, the voice didn’t exactly match a middle school student’s voice. When I read The One Memory of Flora Banks, I loved how the childlike narration matched Flora’s personality. As I read Bumbling Bea on the other hand, it didn’t really match how a MG child would speak. I’ve read my fair share of Middle Grade books and I’ve been in middle school just two years ago to know what is the right voice for a younger protagonist. I’ve read MG books such as 14 Hollow Road, Be Light Like a Bird, and How to Steal a Dog that truly capture the child/MG voice, but Bumbling Bea did not match what an MG reader would read. I don’t think it fits exactly with it’s intended audience (10 – 15). I know the narrator is in 8th grade (I was 13 in 8th grade) and Bea didn’t capture the simplicity and innocence that I love to see in MG characters.
Antihero: So the author took a gamble with using an antihero as the protagonist. By the way, an antihero is a protagonist who lacks heroic virtues, which I think is different from a flawed protagonist. Beatrice has an “alternate ego” called “Bumbling Bea,” a snarky, sarcastic version of herself that’s disrespectful to those around her. Did the main character annoy me? Yes, at points. Personally, antiheroes are huge gambles when writing a book because not everyone is a fan of them. Now me, did I like Beatrice? No, not until the end. Now are there books where you just love the antihero? Yes, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns (which I want to read a lot) is one example where many people who did not like them loved the main character. But it just didn’t work for me.
Concluding Thoughts: I wish I could say why I think you should read this book, but I honestly can’t say. If you want to try out this book, go ahead! You might like it much better than I did. But those were my reasons why it did not click with me. It had a lot of potential, but it wasn’t well executed. I wish I could say more good things about this book, but sadly, I cannot. It just doesn’t feel like a middle grade book.
Do you have any thoughts or questions?
Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!