The Pearl Thief

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
The Pearl Thief Book Poster Image
Queenie's origin tale in less dark Code Name Verity prequel.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Lots of interesting detail about pre-WWII Scotland, archaeology, the Traveler culture and its historic roots, the poetry of Robert Burns, Macbeth, Kidnapped, French language and literature, and more. Also a subtle reference to the Lord Peter Wimsey stories.

Positive Messages

Consider how your actions affect other people. Friendship; loyalty; kindness. Make things right when they've gone wrong. Love of roots and family.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Teen and adult characters are complicated, conflicted, and believably flawed, though most of them are doing their best to do the right thing, whatever the circumstances.

Violence

Teen character bashed over the head by unknown assailant; some speculation as to whether she was raped while unconscious (she wasn't). Mysterious disappearance, dismembered corpse. Also, teen fights off unwanted advances by adult character before friend comes to the rescue with a shotgun and shoots assailant in the (kilted) butt. Policeman beats and abuses Traveler characters.

Sex

Teen narrator flirts with and kisses adult men and teen girls, sometimes intensely. Lots of physical closeness but no sex. Teen and adult characters have romantic relationships.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teen and adult characters occasionally drink alcohol and smoke tobacco.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Pearl Thief, prequel to Elizabeth Wein's Code Name Verity, is an origin-story/coming-of-age tale narrated by the future "Queenie," Scottish aristocrat Julia Beaufort-Stuart. Set in 1938, the summer Julia turns 16, it's less dark than the harrowing Code Name Verity, but there's plenty of edgy behavior and risk-taking, from sleuthing to dangerous flirtation with adult men and romance with another girl. The story's packed with historic detail, literary references, issues of social injustice (especially violence and discrimination against Travelers), gorgeous descriptions of Scotland, and unforgettable characters learning a lot about the world and themselves. Violence includes a dismembered corpse, a teen bashed over the head by an unknown assailant, and a teen who fights off unwanted advances by an adult character before her friend comes to the rescue with a shotgun and shoots assailant in the (kilted) butt.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 11 year old Written bykikicopenhaver January 18, 2018

Intensely explores sexuality

Just a warning that this book explores sexuality and sexual violence in ways that I don't think are appropriate for younger readers.

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What's the story?

As THE PEARL THIEF opens, 15-year-old Lady Julia Beaufort-Stuart arrives at her late grandfather's estate in Scotland a few days earlier than expected -- which is why, when she's bashed over the head by an unknown assailant and lands in the hospital, no one knows who she is for days. It's the first of many enlightening experiences as she tries to find out what happened, forms close bonds with a local family of Travelers, and works to solve an apparent murder mystery when a dismembered corpse turns up in the river. Also, what became of her late grandfather's pearl collection?

Is it any good?

The future "Queenie" spends an eventful, character-building, adventurous, and romantic summer as she turns 16 on the family estate in this exciting prequel set in 1938. With gorgeous descriptions of Scotland, plentiful literary references, historical detail, local customs, social change, and fighting injustice, as well as lots of interior monologue, kissing, and colorful characters, The Pearl Thief may be a bit overstuffed with good things that don't quite come together. But it's a great read, with telling moments showing the early development of the appealing hero of Code Name Verity,

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about family traditions in The Pearl Thief  that influence the characters' choices and options. What examples of this do you see in real life?

  • What do you know about the culture and history of Scotland and the various groups of people who live there? Does reading The Pearl Thief make you want to delve deeper into that part of the world?

  • In The Pearl Thief and in real life, the Travelers suffer discrimination, injustice, and violence. What do you know about the Travelers in today's world? How does their experience compare with that of other groups outside mainstream culture or other longtime victims of prejudice?

Book details

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For kids who love mystery and historical fiction

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