Cover Image: A Green Velvet Secret

A Green Velvet Secret

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Member Reviews

Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for giving me access to the free advanced digital copy of this book.

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Unfortunately, I did not make it far in this book before the voice of the main character made me lose interest. I couldn't form an emotional connection with her, which was really important for this book to land.

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Yardley (Ya Ya) and her grandmother, Gidge, a retired teacher and costume designer, are as close as two best friends could ever be. Gidge is flamboyant, outgoing, and deals with problems straight on, so when she receives a terminal cancer diagnosis, she lets her family know with helium filled silver balloons and a champagne breakfast.

As she begins to get her affairs in order, Grandmother and granddaughter continue to be inseparable. Gidge works on her Karma, by sitting in the garden writing letters to people in her past who she has wronged while Yardley weeds. The two of them go through a life time of Gidge's clothing to take to a consignment shop to sell. The best place is owned by Conrad Kim (Connie) one of Gidge's former students. After a joyful reunion Gidge and Yardley spend a lot of time at the store. Connie's nephew, Harris, is always there working on his puzzle books. Gidge and Connie encourage a friendship between the two twelve year olds, but Harris wants nothing to do with her.

As Yardley and Gidge spend more time together readers become aware of Gidge's failing health. Eventually she decides to stop chemotherapy and makes arrangements for a medically assisted death at home. Ya Ya is not ready for this, but the date arrives and her family is there with her as Gidge breathes her last breath. I'm not going to lie, I pretty much bawled my eyes out along with Yardley, her father and mother.

Yardley continues to spend time at the shop, organizing clothes and helping set up displays. Harris remains aloof. Then one day she receives a letter from Gidge. Yardley gets it in her head that Gidge has been reincarnated. One day an older women comes into the shop claiming she is there to pick up a parcel she won. When she opens it up in the shop, it's Gidge's green velvet dress. Yardley becomes certain the woman is Gidge. As she sinks into magical thinking, Harris begins to take note of what's going on and tries to help her out. His actions are somewhat misguided at times, but it all turns out well by the end of the book.

I loved so much about this book. The characters are brilliant. Yardley's quirkiness and unique fashion flair reminded me of one of my students. I liked that while the parents, both actors in a small theatre company, are also a bit odd, they have their daughters best interests at heart.

I adored the glorious descriptions of vintage clothing!

It’s interesting to be reading this book at the ripe old age of almost 70. I can connect with Yardley, a young girl losing her grandmother, because I had two dearest grandmas I loved to spend time with. One of them lived with us at the end of her life. Now I have grandchildren of my own, so I am able to connect with Gidge, a grandmother having to say that final goodbye to her beloved granddaughter. I'm pretty sure that people will connect to both these fabulous characters even without this kind of background knowledge.

In spite of the fact that this book is about grief and the magical thinking that accompanies the death of someone important, it’s chock full of laughter too. Be prepared for joy, laugh out loud humour, and tears.

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Yardley doesn't have a lot of friends at school, but she doesn't need them. She has her grandmother, Gidge. The two hang out together, enjoy dressing in outrageous fashions, and form a united front against Yardley's parents, who are actors who run a local theater that puts on unusual productions. When Gidge is diagnosed with terminal cancer, she approaches it as her "next adventure". She writes a lot of apology letters to send off, as well as letters to mail after her death. She cleans out her closet (she as a costume design teacher at the local arts high school for years) and takes garments to the Over Easy Vintage Emporium to sell. The shop is run by a former student, Con, who is taking care of his nephew, Harris, who is Yardley's age. Harris doesn't really want to talk to her, since he is dealing with his own problems, and Yardley isn't interested in befriending him, either. Gidge has some chemotherapy, but it isn't successful, and when her condition worsens, she contacts a doctor who can help her under Canada's medical assistance in dying law. There is a small party with Gidge's favorite things, and then she is gone. Yardley takes this badly, but does continue to help out at the Emporium. When Mrs. Johnson comes in saying that she won a prize, Con gives her a box that contained one of Gidge's dresses, a green velvet number that seemed to make Gidge sad. Yardley gets it into her head that Mrs. Johnson is Gidge reincarnated, and ropes Harris into helping her find the woman. Yardley sees coincidences everywhere, and she also gets letters mentioning her current activities that she thinks Gidge is sending from the beyond. Of course, none of this is true, and family secrets eventually unfold. Will the green velvet dress be the key to helping Yardley make peace with her grandmother's passing?
Strengths: I'm a huge fan of vintage clothing, so reading about all of Gidge's and Yardley's flamboyant fashion was such fun! This was also a very matter-of-fact look at the death that was treated positively and wasn't overblown. A lot of grandparents pass away when their grandchildren are tweens; this is far more likely to happen than the death of a parent, and while there are a lot of details about how Gidge chooses to go, it's not maudlin or soppy. Yardley struggles, but does make progress in dealing with her grief. Seeing a strong intergenerational relationship, like the one in Respicio's Any Day With You, is something I would like to see more of in middle grade literature. Supporting characters like the parents, Con, and Harris are interesting as well. The family secret offers a bit of healing potential.
Weaknesses: Would middle school students really think that a grandparent was reincarnated? Usually by 6th grade my students have moved past magical thinking like this, although many elementary students certainly would believe it.
What I really think: Like Urban's Maybe There and Maybe Not , this was an interesting look at grief, family secrets, and how to move forward after the death of a loved one. I wish that Yardley hadn't been quite as quirky (there's something to be said for flying under the radar in middle school), but this was a positive and amusing way to deal with a difficulty subject.

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After Yardley loses her grandma Gidge, things just aren't the same.
This book has a multitude of characters who help Yardley deal with her grief. I loved the storyline with the women with the green dress and how it helped Yardley stay connected with Gidge.
I liked Harris and Con too. They really helped Yardley through it all, with her working at the store.
This is a tough read at points as Yardley deals with her grief but it was good too.

Thanks NetGalley for this ARC.

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An interesting story on death, lost loved ones and grief.

Yardley doesn’t have any friends her age, unless you count her grandmother Gidge. However one day, Gidge announces she’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer and embraces her last few days by selling off her vintage items and rectifying her karma by sending goodbye/apology letters. Yardley on the other hand, is devastated and is unable to cope with Gidge’s loss. While working at Overy Easy Vintage Emporium, Yardley meets a woman claiming to have won a prize – Gidge’s green velvet dress. Yardley, seeing Gidge in the women, starts to believe her grandmother has come back to life and with Harris’s help she goes about figuring out the mystery.

I’m usually not a fan of books that deal with heavy topics such as death and grief because they make me cry easily. But this book was different. This story is a retelling from Yardley’s perspective and the first quarter of the story was fast paced. It really emphasized Gidge’s personality and her urgency given her time was limited. The remainder of the book follows Yardley coping with her grandmother’s loss. It was a difficult time and honestly hard to read at times but Yardley pulled through in the end with the help of those near her.

I liked how the mystery wasn’t just about the woman who Yardley thought had Gidge’s reincarnated soul but also about Harris. Harris was not a great character in the beginning and I felt his story wasn’t thoroughly expressed, but I liked how that part of him was kept a secret for a while. Harris’s story did intrigue me more because it talked volumes about his skill sets and how he potentially acquired those. Harris’ mystery does help keep the story moving and put into perspective that sometimes we should be grateful for our circumstances no matter how hard and difficult they may be, because there’s always someone who’s going through something much worse.

The story has a short list of characters and each was amazing in their own way. I loved Con because he was supportive, fun loving and just full of positivity. Yardley’s parents were also great but sometimes I felt they were too great; like maybe too good to be true. You will not find any character in this book that could be considered a “villain” because there really isn’t any.

Overall, this was a good read with a different perspective on coping with grief. I enjoyed the supportive cast and the narrative perspective.

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