This was a tough one for me. As a fan of From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, I appreciated the premise but some of the plot drivers just didn’t work for me. Two kids madly in love with Ikea really stretched my suspension of disbelief. I realize the author based these two off of her son and her son’s best friend who actually did/do love Ikea so obviously my disbelief was wrong, but it still had me scratching my head throughout most of the story.
I will give Newman props for creating some great characters. Frankie and Walter’s friendship is wonderful and Frankie’s voice as she tells this story, is fun to read. Their are some great moments, funny, poignant, and ridiculous, that strengthen Walter and Frankie’s friendship and improve some things in their home lives as well. There is a nod to capitalism that, I’ll admit, I wasn’t fond of. Frankie’s love of shiny new things had me gritting my teeth. (“Girls” plus “shopping” is never a winner for me.) But Newman does have the kids discussing what they call “the wanties”, that pesky desire to have all the things, even if you don’t need them. And, in the end, Frankie does downsize both her wants and her actual possessions.
A big issue for me, though, was the lack of consequences. Especially since Walter is black. Our society is less tolerant of black males in all circumstances, and yet Walter and his family seemed untouched by this truth. The kids do a decent amount of damage inside the store. I wasn’t surprised that two sixth graders could damage Ikea as much as these two do, but the end result (SPOILER ALERT)–a security guard cleaning up the mess and basically lying about what happened to some of the merchandise–felt, well, considerably white privileged. And while I would hope that adults the world over would be as understanding as all of the adults in this story are, I have less faith in corporations.
Sorry Ikea. I do love you. My house is lined with your BILLY bookcases. But I know you have security cameras, policies about shoplifting, and lawyers.
So, yeah, too many moments of disbelief led to a less than stellar experience. I’m afraid I won’t be talking this one up any time soon.