Penelope Jane Parker - better known as PJ - is a precocious, sociable nine-year-old who, in the spring of her Grade 4 year, is keen to show her abilities as a sprinter in the annual school track meet.
Penelope Jane Parker - better known as PJ - is a precocious, sociable nine-year-old who, in the spring of her Grade 4 year, is keen to show her abilities as a sprinter in the annual school track meet. Her best friend, Katie, has no interest in competing in the footrace that PJ knows she, PJ, will win. What do best friends do? Well, PJ decides that, in order to encourage Katie, she'll slow down to give Katie a chance when they race together in the warm-ups the week before the meet, so her friend will feel better about herself. But, as the race begins and PJ slows down, suddenly Katie surges into the lead, and PJ is left huffing to catch up; in fact, Katie wins the race.
This begins a spiral of jealousy and anger and worry that causes a rupture in the friendship and a sequence of events during which PJ goes nuts trying to figure out how to retrieve her position as winner and good friend. PJ shops for a new best friend to no avail. Her parents strongly advise her to make up with Katie. Her brother mocks her. PJ's nine-year-old world is falling apart - and it's only after a number of disastrous stumbles that the friendship is repaired and equilibrium is restored. The story is told with a lot of humour - it's the lighter side of what can sometimes be the very nasty and destructive world of plot and counter-plot that can infest the social lives of girls.
View Review text
"How to Ruin Your Life
illustrates the competitive nature of young girls. Carolyn McTighe weaves humour into P.J.'s need to be victorious through both her incessant list making and her naivete. McTighe's humourous touches accentuate even the last words of the story leaving readers with a smirk on their faces. How to Ruin Your Life
is a good-natured tale that demonstrates what’s truly important in life.Recommended.
— CM Magazine
"McTighe's novel carries messages about the dangers of copycatting, gossip, and jealousy while offering a satisfying lesson on humility that will resonate with readers. . . McTighe offers a preteen voice in P. J. that is honest and true."
"Author Carolyn McTighe clearly has insight into the world of nine-year-old girls; she is attuned to how girls can behave towards each other, and how young tweens' emotions, including anger and insecurity, are considerably heightened. The note-writing, the search for a new best friend, and her dramatic declaration that she is "never going to apologize" make PJ's distress believable. Although she doesn't have great depth, PJ is a character who, even at her worst moment, is relatable and, more importantly, likeable. . . McTighe lightens the story with her humorous, honest storytelling. PJ's views and commentary on her family, friends, and teachers is amusing, and her training attempts, including a disgusting drink concoction recommended by her brother, add comic relief. Although the title seems to imply a more dramatic novel, the story's lighthearted elements and universal situation create a nice balance in this book for girls just like PJ. . . With its strong message about friendship and learning what's truly important, How to Ruin Your Life is a great middle-grade book for girls."
— Foreword Magazine
"McTighe tells this tale with a wicked sense of humor and employs the device of lists to convey important character details. . . I could see using this book as a read aloud in class to discuss friendship and its responsibilities, and ethics."
— Puget Sound Council for Reviewing Children's Media
"(The characters) come across as real fourth graders, and the story includes some humor. All in all, this is a fast read and a pleasant running-related story."
— School Library Journal
View Biographical note
is freelance writer whose articles have appeared in magazines and newspapers across Canada and the United States. She has written for CBC Radio, the Los Angeles Times, Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, 24 Hours Vancouver and most recently ELLE Canada. Her first children's book, The Sakura Tree, was published in 2007 by Red Deer Press, and her first non-fiction adult book, Vacuuming in Pearls will be published in 2011. Carolyn lives in British Columbia, with her husband and four children.