Tuesday, September 18, 2018
"Laura Ingalls is Ruining My Life" by Shelley Tougas
A life on the prairie is not all its cracked up to be for one girl whose mom takes her love of the Little House series just a bit too far.
Charlotte’s mom has just moved the family across the country to live in Walnut Grove, “childhood home of pioneer author Laura Ingalls Wilder.” Mom’s idea is that the spirit of Laura Ingalls will help her write a bestselling book. But Charlotte knows better: Walnut Grove is just another town where Mom can avoid responsibility. And this place is worse than everywhere else the family has lived―it’s freezing in the winter, it’s small with nothing to do, and the people talk about Laura Ingalls all the time. Charlotte’s convinced her family will not be able to make a life on the prairie―until the spirit of Laura Ingalls starts getting to her, too.
No surprises, this book caught my attention because Laura Ingalls Wilder's name is in the title. Based on the cover art, I could tell it wasn't a work of historical fiction, so whose life could Laura possibly be ruining? Turns out, it's Charlotte's. Charlotte is used to her family moving from place to place as her mom isn't always the most responsible of parents so it's not unheard of for them to skip town when the bills become to high. This time, they are moving to Walnut Grove, one of the many places where the Ingalls family lived. This time around, Charlotte's mother has a plan to write a novel and she feels that living in the same place as Laura will help her. So once again, Charlotte and her siblings, Rose and Freddy (fans of Wilder will see a theme here) have to make home in new town and at a new school. Because of her mother's obsession, Charlotte is less than pleased when her very first school assignment is to write about Laura. She titles her essay Laura Ingalls is Ruining My Life, and this sets the ball rolling for her teacher to give her some extra help. She ends up having to volunteer at a museum dedicated to Laura Ingalls Wilder, further decreasing her love of the author and leading to even more problems in her life.
I'm torn on this book. While I chose to read Shelley Tougas' book because of the Laura Ingalls Wilder references, part of me wishes that there had be less of them. At times, it felt like a gimmick to attract fans of Wilder to the story, when the story as a whole has little to do with Wilder or her life. I feel like the story would have been more compelling if it had focused solely on Charlotte and her interactions with her family. Apart from this, I enjoyed the story. It was interesting to see how Charlotte handled the challenges in her life. She is used to her life, but because of her young age, she isn't ready to take care of her mother and siblings. I liked Charlotte's arc. She starts off somewhat frustrating at times, but learns about herself and how to become a good person. I also really liked seeing how she helped Rose and Freddy and how each of them became better people by the end of the novel. While I couldn't relate very much to Charlotte, Freddy and Rose, I've known people in similar situations and think that this book would have been appealing to them. As much as I love Wilder, I would have enjoyed this story far more if she was never mentioned, but instead if I could have just read the same plot without mention of anyone famous.