Thank You to Lake Union Publishing for providing me with an advanced copy of Elizabeth LaBan and Melissa DePino’s novel, Pretty Little World, in exchange for an advanced review.
PLOT – In a suburb of Philadelphia, three sets of neighbors living with shared walls, have developed deep friendship. Mark and Celia, with their large family, are beginning to feel that they need a bigger house, and they tell their friends that they will soon be moving out of the neighborhood. Their neighbors, Hope/Leo, and Stephanie/Chris, are distraught over this news. A possible solution presents itself, when the shared wall between Mark/Celia’s and Stephanie/Chris’ house develops a large hole. The couples decide to hire a professional to remove the shared wall and open up Hope/Leo’s wall, allowing the three families to share their lower floors, functioning as a larger family unit. Can this experiment work? Are they putting their friendships at risk?
LIKE– I was drawn to the concept of Pretty Little World. Whether fiction or non-fiction, I like stories of alternative lifestyles and family groups. Coming from an extremely small family, I like the idea of the importance of friends, and that friends are the family that you choose. In theory, I really like the idea of families choosing to live together and caring for one another. However, after reading Pretty Little World, I can see where this nice idea, has some major problems.
The issues that LaBan and DePino create for their characters in their new living arrangement are intriguing. For example, when living in a group, the couples found themselves shifting focus away from their own relationships and family units, in efforts to work as a team, this ultimately created friction. Rather than turning to their spouses, some characters turned to other people for emotional support, creating a distance from their spouse. There was a nice, subtle twist, with the realization that it is okay to have different types of connections with other people, but this only works when you put your spouse first.
Hope experiences a moral crisis when she is in charge of watching the kids play outside and a car narrowly misses hitting them. Hope reaches for her own daughter first, and this action makes her feel like she should not have the responsibility of caring for the other children, a revelation that crushes her. I thought this was one of the most riveting and honest moments in the story.
DISLIKE– The structure could have been stronger, perhaps starting, Pretty Little World, after the couples had already made the decision to live together, as their tight bond was very clear and the reason for their decision did not need to be drawn out with a long opening. Their leap to moving in together seemed too easy, rushed, which would have also been eliminated by changing the starting point. The concept and characters, kept me engaged, even though it was slow to start and had clunky moments.
Speaking of clunky, the subplots were uneven with regard to my level of interest. The story of Mark’s infidelity with a sexy, younger neighbor was one of the more interesting subplots, especially when his secret is discovered. I was less interested with Chris, who quite honestly, was the least memorable character.
There is a reoccurring fear that their life style will be discovered. I wasn’t sure why this was such a huge deal? There didn’t seem to be a real consequence from being “found out” other than some people might disapprove. This fear needed to have higher stakes or needed to be lessened. I could believe one character expressing worry over being discovered, but I didn’t believe the overall paranoia.
RECOMMEND- No. Pretty Little World, has an interesting concept, and was an okay read, but when there are so many amazing stories waiting to be read, okay doesn’t cut it.