Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone, by Dene Low

Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone, by Dene Low

Title: Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone
Author: Dene Low
Pages: 208
Originally Published: 2009
Format I Read: Paperback
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Rating: [rating:3]


Dene Low is a local Utah author. I met her at Writing for Charity. And I simply had to pick up her book, especially in light of the delightful title and cover. As far as I can tell, Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone is Ms. Low’s only published work, though she has completed three additional books about Petronella’s adventures. Without further ado, the blurb:

You would think Petronella’s sixteenth birthday would be cause for celebration. After all, fashionable friends are arriving at her country estate near London, teas are being served, and her coming out party promises to be a resplendent affair. Everything is falling nicely into place, until, suddenly—it isn’t. For Petronella discovers that her guardian, Uncle Augustus T. Percival, has developed a most unVictorian compulsion: He must eat bugs. Worse still, because he is her guardian, Uncle Augustus is to attend her soiree and his current state will most definitely be an embarrassment.

During the festivities, when Petronella would much rather be sharing pleasantries with handsome Lord James Sinclair (swoon), important guests are disappearing, kidnapping notes are appearing, many of the clues are insects, and Uncle Augustus is surreptitiously devouring evidence. It’s more than one sixteen-year-old girl should have to deal with. But, truth be told, there is far more yet to come . . .

While I enjoyed some aspects of this one, I just couldn’t love it. At its core, the plot is just a simple mystery. But I think the primary reason that I didn’t fall in love was that the writing was just too “Hey! Look at me!” It was just too tongue-in-cheek. Here are a couple of examples:

Although one may have stacks of money, not to mention an impeccable social position, there are times when one wishes for the homely pleasure of encircling parental arms. Such was the case when I surveyed the scene of the crime in the brightening dawn while being interrogated by Scotland Yard. (22)

When one’s cherished guardian has become a social pariah with no aspirations to change, one must reconsider one’s personal goals. With circumstances as they were, my future had the brilliance of squashed toadstools. (37)

It was charming at first, and then it became taxing.

And I never could determine who, exactly, the ideal reader for this book is. In someways it seemed to be a middle grade book (the length, the uncle hopping about eating insects, and the crazy relations), and in other ways it seemed to be a young adult book (the romantic interest, the vocabulary, and the ages of the characters).

I did laugh out loud at a few points. And I liked Petronella (and her flirtations with James) quite a bit. But, in the end, this book just didn’t quite work for me.

Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone, by Dene Low [rating:3]

What books by Utah authors are you reading and reviewing?