REVIEW: Bea Is for Blended by Lindsey Stoddard
Bea and her mom have always been a two-person team. But now her mom is marrying Wendell, and their team is growing by three boys, two dogs, and a cat.
Finding her place in her new blended family may be tough, but when Bea finds out her school might not get the all-girls soccer team they’d been promised, she learns that the bigger the team, the stronger the fight—and that for the girls to get what they deserve, they’re going to need a squad behind them.
Dear Ms. Stoddard,
This book caught my eye because the cover and the blurb reminded me of another author I’ve enjoyed Barbara O’Connor. There is so much here to love about Bea and (yes) her blended family that it’s hard to know where to start talking about it.
Bea Embers is a strong girl but then she comes from a family of strong women. There is never any mention of any men in this group (to the point that I began to wonder about parthenogenesis) but I love Bea’s mother and Grandma and can easily see where she gets her spirit and determination. Bea’s mother is a paramedic who apparently finished her required training while in the late stages of pregnancy with Bea and Grandma has raised them all with the habit of “threes” wherein they all start the morning reciting three things they’re happy about.
But now Bea is struggling for happy threes as her life is being upended by her mother’s marriage to Wendell and the fact that the compact Embers family is being blended with the Valentines. This entails a new house, a new stepfather, three new stepbrothers plus two dogs and a cat and the fact that Bea won’t be living close to an honorary aunt or Bea’s best friend Maximillian. Bea’s also worried about whether or not there will be enough interest to field a girl’s soccer team this year or if the girls will have to play on the boy’s team. That hasn’t worked well in the past as the school principal is also the coach, he focuses on the boys, and the boys never pass to the girls on the team who usually soon get frustrated and quit. Oh, and one of her new brothers is also a long time nemesis who hangs out with friends who have three brain cells between them (according to Bea).
Can Bea get used to her new family? Will she be able to drum up enough interest among the girls to field a team? And how will her new focus on reading and the lessons taught by her teachers intersect to help her against bullies and a principal who does nothing about it?
The book is a little slow to start as there are a lot of characters, characteristics, and situations to set up. Once it got going, I settled in and read most of it in one day. Initially Bea is a bit sulky about her new life but she’s dealing with a lot of changes so it didn’t bother me. I loved her friendship with her best friend who has OCD which Bea has learned how to help him cope with in public. Bea is fearless in standing up to the three boys who bully Maximillian and it’s a joy to watch her new teachers expertly deescalating and redirecting some of this in their classroom.
Being from a long line of women who “have got this,” it’s no surprise that Bea won’t back down in her efforts to get a girl’s soccer team going. The final player to join is the new student, a deaf girl, who begins to teach the others signs they start to use on the field. I won’t reveal the season the girls have but I enjoyed how everything came together in the end – lessons are learned, friendships are made, teamwork is emphasised, and perhaps change will occur because of “take no prisoners” Bea.
All that being said, I do think the book has a fair degree of wishful thinking going on. There are a lot of potential conflicts that are included and examined but in most cases, resolved positively. It’s lovely and feel-good but perhaps not truly indicative of the real world. There are also some side characters who fade to the background a lot but then this is a book mainly about how Bea views them. Another character’s changes are shown very subtly and for the issues being presented, I’d have like a bit more emphasis on showing these. Still, I finished the book feeling good and in this era of pandemic and conflict, that’s a great thing to get from a story. B