Random House Australia (2012)
Reviewed by Alison Spicer-Wensley
Ten-year-old Lizzie Adams, the misunderstood Miss of the title, is not bad or naughty but somehow she finds herself expelled from Our Lady of the Sacred Wimple College. As she begins her home schooling experience she discovers that she is not the only one with problems. The mysterious stranger camping out in the display home next door has his own problems and even her funny and cheerful dad doesn’t seem to be himself.
Home schooling is not so bad for Lizzie but the family is under strain as her mother tries to cope with reduced income, Lizzie’s baby brother and some unexpected emotional behaviour from Lizzie’s father, Marty. Lizzie also misses her friends and is worried that someone else is becoming the centre of her best friend’s attention. When Marty suggests that there may be a way for her to return to Our Lady of the Sacred Wimple she jumps at the chance. The proposal is that she produce good school work, undertake some community service and write a letter explaining how she has changed since the unfortunate incident with the burning image of the Principal. Lizzie’s chosen community service is at the local charity shop where she learns a lot about how sometimes ordinary people experience hard times.
Marty’s work as a food writer is a source of humour in the story as is their house, which is regularly mistaken for part of the adjoining display home village, much to the family’s annoyance.
This gently humorous story draws the reader along with Lizzie as she learns a little more about life. The character portrayals are sympathetic and real with no stereotypical heroes or villains. Miss Understood proceeds at an easy pace but Lizzie’s everyday concerns feel important to the reader as do the larger issues, such as her father’s depression, that are deftly woven into her story. This issue is explored in a positive and hopeful way. Contact information for Lifeline, Kids Helpline and Beyond Blue is provided at the back of the book. Miss Understood will appeal to readers aged 9 to 12 who enjoy realist fiction and gentle humour.