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Perfected by Girls: a Novel by Alfred C. Martino
Coles Street Publishing, November 1, 2011
Summary from Goodreads:
Navigating high school isn't easy for Melinda Radford. She's the lone girl on the Ashton High wrestling team, grappling with opponents who refuse to compete against her, a few who want to crush her, and a coach who's less-than-pleased having a female in his practice room. At home, Mel s parents forbid her from seeing her new boyfriend, her grandmother insists she start preparing for her future by taking a dreary office internship, and her infuriating older brother, who s the varsity team captain, flirts with her best friend, Jade. Just when it seems things can't get any more complicated, an off-handed comment puts Mel at odds with her teammates, her brother, and, worst of all, her coach. But through a strange twist of tragedy and fate, Mel is given an unexpected opportunity to accomplish something no girl in her school's history has ever done something that just may redeem herself in the eyes of her detractors. But is she strong enough to handle the pressure?I thoroughly enjoyed Perfected by Girls, even though I have absolutely no knowledge of wrestling at any level. Fortunately, while this story is about a female sophomore who is the first to wrestle on her high school's all-boys team, it's also a story about a female sophomore learning to navigate her life.
It's clear that wrestling is a true interest of the author and he doesn't waste a lot of time explaining the various moves. This was fine with me--I was able to glean what I needed for the story from his writing, and the internet can certainly provide me with a more in-depth education on the subject. Rather, Martino weaves the wrestling elements throughout the other plot lines. And are there other plot lines! Melinda's domineering older brother, her parents, who hold said brother in a much higher regard (there are all sorts of double standards in this book), her teammates, who for the most part act like stereotypical, ignorant boys, Mel's best friend Jade, who, as far as I'm concerned, should NOT be allowed to hold that title. Oh, and let's not forget the hot boy, Stewart, who might really like Mel, but might just be trying to get into her pants. And of course her parents decide on first sight that he's No Good For Melinda. And weird, wealthy Grandma, who holds strong to an image of who she thinks Melinda should be--who cares what Melinda wants?
Seriously, there's so much going on in this story that to many it might seem like too much. I sort of thought that way, at first. However, as I reflected on the novel for this review, I realized that most teenage girls have way too much going on in their lives, so why should Melinda be any different?
Melinda is a strong character, which is admirable when you consider that she really doesn't have anyone in her corner (or whatever the wrestling-equivalent-term would be). No one seems to take her wrestling seriously--she's barely tolerated by her teammates, her brother (God, is he a jerk!) mocks her, her parents barely even acknowledge her existence...even "best friend" Jade spends more time ogling Mel's brother than cheering on Mel. It's not until Mel attends an all-girls wrestling clinic that she realizes what support is supposed to look like. That clinic is a turning point for her life, not just her wrestling career.
Although I did truly enjoy this book (and OMG I was brought to tears at one point near the end), I felt the ending was unsettled. Realistic, yes, but I did want more for Melinda. Such is life, I suppose. Overall, Perfected by Girls is an enjoyable novel that I would recommend for girls in high school and above.
eBook received from author in exchange for an honest review.
Enjoy your reading!