Book Review: Vive La Paris by Esme Raji Codell

Vive La Paris: Esme Raji Codell: 9780786851249: Books

Title: Vive La Paris

Author: Esme Raji Codell

Genre: Realistic Middle Grade Fiction

Number of Pages: 224

Rating: D

Recommended?: No

Don’t let the beautiful cover art fool you. This book sucks hard. I enjoyed Sahara Special, the companion to this book, but this one practically ruined it for me. Read with caution because there are some serious spoilers ahead.

Vive La Paris is about a little girl named Paris with a houseful of brothers and a somewhat unusual family. She’s a classmate of Sahara, the girl with learning disabilities from the previous book. At the beginning of the book Paris starts going to piano lessons with Mrs. Rose, an eccentric Jewish woman with a blunt way about her. At first Paris doesn’t like Mrs. Rose’s forward way of giving her unsolicited advice but they eventually begin to bond.

One of Paris’ brothers is a goody-goody type who is having the absolute shit kicked out of him by a girl at his school. Because of the stigma of his abuser being a girl and his subservient nature, he not only doesn’t do anything to fight back but also makes moral justifications for the girl because she’s troubled. At the end it turns out the girl bully has a brother dying of a terminal illness and Paris’ brother actually criticizes her for being so selfish and callous she wouldn’t immediately forgive the person who is leaving bruises all over her brother’s body.

After the girl’s brother dies they end up being good friends because Paris’ brother allowed himself to be a punching bag for an angry person seeking a victim. Meanwhile it turns out that Mrs. Rose is a Holocaust survivor and for some reason she gives Paris a Star of David that is of enormous meaning and importance to her.

Paris has no idea what the Holocaust is and she thinks it’s so cool that the star becomes trendy among her classmates and they write numbers on their arms and shit. At this point I thought the author was just being insulting because not a single one of these kids has any idea what the Holocaust was and they need to have a stern talking-to from a teacher about how the systematic extermination of millions of people is no joking matter.

Paris feels bad and learns some important life lessons about not trivializing mass murder and how being angry towards people who beat the crap out of her brother makes her a selfish person. The ending throws in Mrs. Rosen’s untimely death because she’s a mentor character so the author needed to throw some good tearjerker moments into the last chapter or so. I thought this book had potential because I liked the idea of Paris’ character and I enjoyed her narrative verse, but the storyline and the messages the author seemed like she was trying to send were appallingly tone-deaf and disappointing.