Told from alternating points of view, Peas and Carrots is the story of two teen girls, different in just about every way, who have to learn how to get along while in a foster care situation. Odessa “Dess” Matthews has had it rough. Living with a mother who has children she can’t take care of, her mom returns time and again to an abusive relationship that is horrible for Dess and her baby brother.
Now Dess hasn’t seen Baby for at least four years. Living in a group home isn’t easy, but she’s used to it. Her only wish is to visit her brother and make sure he is OK. She never wanted to actually live with the family.
Hope Carter knows that it’s important to take care of the foster kids that her family takes in; she knows she shouldn’t begrudge them a stable home. But taking this 15-year-old who’s there just because she’s Austin’s sister? Even if it is only for a short while, this girl is hard and mean. And she really doesn’t look like Austin at all, with her bleached blonde hair and her white skin. Are they really related? Hope will just try to stay out of her way.
Everyone except Hope sees the good in Dess. She’s even insinuated herself in with the kids at school. But living under the same roof has a way of smoothing out the rough edges – on everyone.
I love how in the beginning, there is no description of Dess and Hope. I wonder if readers automatically assume that the foster family is white and Odessa is black? If you’ve read the Goodreads description, you already know the answer. Was this done on purpose, so that the reader might have to challenge some stereotypes?
There are many interesting side stories, such as why Dess’ father is in prison and the fears she retains from her “relationship” with him; the complicated mother/daughter dynamic; her jealousy of her brother’s situation; and Dess learning to trust this family. Her skittishness, suspicion and the walls she keeps up are so realistic. Hope, too, is a little jealous, knowing that she has to share her parents, uncle and grandmother with other people’s children. Just because her family is doing good doesn’t always take those feelings away.
The main story seemed to be resolved a bit too easily; some of the relationship stuff between Hope and Dess disappears rather abruptly. Then, before you know it, the story is over. I wish there’d been a little more at the end, just as things were getting good.
Peas and Carrots by Tanita S. Davis was published February 9, 2016 by Knopf Books for young Readers. Ink and Page picked this book up from the library for review.
Genre: Young Adult Realistic Contemporary Fiction