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Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers, March 8, 2011
Read for YA Contemps and 2011 Debut Author Challenges
Summary from Goodreads:
It's hard finding beauty in the badlands of Washokey, Wyoming, but 14-year-old Grace Carpenter knows it's not her mother's pageant obsessions, or the cowboy dances adored by her small-town classmates. True beauty is wild-girl Mandarin Ramey: 17, shameless and utterly carefree. Grace would give anything to be like Mandarin. When they're united for a project, they form an unlikely, explosive friendship, packed with nights spent skinny-dipping in the canal, liberating the town's animal-head trophies, and searching for someplace magic. Grace plays along when Mandarin suggests they run away together. Blame it on the crazy-making wildwinds plaguing their Badlands town. Because all too soon, Grace discovers Mandarin's unique beauty hides a girl who's troubled, broken, and even dangerous. And no matter how hard Grace fights to keep the magic, no friendship can withstand betrayal.Here's another book that's been on my to-read pile forever. I finally got around to it, and I did enjoy it. It's a strong debut novel, and I look forward to more from Kirsten. I love stories about small towns and the teens desperate to escape them. I also love reading about the nonsense that is beauty pagentry. There was just something a little...off...about this novel, and I think it was our narrator, Grace. She was just so...YOUNG. I totally get that was the point, to show how naive she was when compared to Mandarin. I mean, she's 14 but the school decided she was too smart to be a freshman, so they bumped her to a sophomore. It just struck me as improbably that a girl as meek and innocent as Grace would ever have the motivation to ever leave her tiny little town.
Mandarin was a fun character, though, and I enjoyed reading about her quirks. A girl like Mandarin, in a town like Washokey? Of COURSE people are going to talk about her! That's another thing I loved about this novel--Kirsten created a very realistic portrayal of the small-mindedness that is all too often present in small towns.
Enjoy your reading!