Tuesday, July 5, 2011
It's hard to find beauty in the badlands of Washokey, Wyoming. Fourteen-year-old Grace Carpenter sure knows there's nothing beautiful about her mother's pageant obsessions, or about the cowboy dances or pickup trucks adored by her small-town classmates. True beauty is wild girl Mandarin Ramey; seventeen, shameless, and utterly carefree. Studious and self-conscious Grace would give anything to be like Mandarin.
When these girls, so utterly different from one another, are united for a school project, they embark on an unlikely, explosive friendship-dipping in the canal, liberating the town's animal-head trophies, and searching for someplace magic. When Mandarin suggest that they make a pact to run away, Grace goes along witht he idea on a whim. Maybe it's the wildwinds that plague their badlands town that make her say yes.
After a while, however, Grace has second thoughts. It turns out that Mandarin's unique beauty hides a girl who's troubled - even dangerous. And no matter how hard Grace fights to keep their friendship alive, even the strongest relationships can't withstand betrayal.
In a Nutshell: Like Mandarin is an interesting contemporary that examines one girls journey of finding herself and discovering that life isn't about where you live, but how you live.
Putdownability Factor: Nothing about this book really had me glued to the pages, but I wasn't bored while reading it either.
Cover Love: I think the cover is pretty bland. I wish it was more able to convey what this book is about, and not just your run-of-the-mill contemporary cover. There isn't anything that makes it stand out from the crowd.
Why did I pick this up? For the Contemps Challenge!
Grace Carpenter has lived her whole life in dumpy Washokey, Wyoming. Its one of those small towns where everyone knows everyone else, and the only exciting thing that ever happens is the town drunk holding up the local fast food restaurant. Yep, its that boring. So I really can't blame Grace (or Mandarin for that matter) for wanting to get out of town. I definitely thought that Grace was a relatable character. Just about everyone has wanted to be like "that girl" at sometime in their life like the way that Grace wishes she were like Mandarin.
I was also able to understand Mandarin even though she was my polar opposite in a lot of ways. Mandarin wanted to live. REALLY live. I admired that in her. She didn't want to just spend her days in a town where she was known only for her reputation and not who she really was. I loved Mandarin's passion for life. Some of the things Mandarin would do reminded me that life is too short to waste. Be a little daring. Take a chance. What's life without a little danger?
Like Mandarin is a book about searching. Searching for love when all seems lost. Searching for hope in seemingly hopeless situations. And searching for the truth. While I didn't love this book, I did love the questions that it posed and I also loved its honesty. There were dark moments that had me cringing, but it never felt overdone, it just felt like life. Hard, even a little scary at times, but still beautiful. I give Like Mandarin 3 and a half ice cream cones out of 5.
Who would I recommend this book to: Teen girls who enjoy contemporary novels with emotional depth and complexity would definitely enjoy Like Mandarin!