Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard

Current Giveaway on Alison Can Read 


Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard
March 8, 2011; Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers


Summary

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. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

Have you ever had a crush on a girl? I'm not talking about a romantic crush, but rather pure idolization and adoration. You want to be her. She lights up the world around her. Her clothes are unbearably hip. Her attitude, intelligence, and humor are so much cooler than yours. She's confident and doesn't let the world get her down. That's the basic premise of Like Mandarin.

Mardarin is so much cooler than plain-Jane Grace. Even her name is exotic. To the rest of Grace's rural Wyoming town, Mandarin is the bad girl. The local slut who the teenage girls sneer at, the teenage boys dream about, and the mothers steer their children away from. In Grace's mind, though, Mandarin is a symbol of escape. A path away from her pageant-obsessed mother and her narrow-minded neighbors and classmates. Grace wants to be like Mandarin.

When Mandarin graces Grace with her presence, Grace's life completely changes. She basks in Mandarin's light. For awhile. But Mandarin's light is heavily shaded with darkness. Grace slowly begins to understand that Mandarin may be night more than she is day.

Like Mandarin was a frustrating novel. On the up side, it was beautifully written. Hubbard's prose is full of detail. She does an especially wonderful job of describing the beauty and barrenness of rural Wyoming, as well as the stifling nature of a small town with its narrow-mindedness and endless gossip. The plot flows smoothly, easily mixing Grace and Mandarin's adventures with Grace's inner turmoil and her family drama. I also loved how well I came to understand the characters, Grace and Mandarin in particular. There was never a moment where I was hit over the head with a description of their personalities. Instead, Grace's thoughts and both girls' actions illuminated their characters.

The down side isn't a bad thing, per se. You could argue it's a good thing. I quickly liked, sympathized with, and pitied Grace. It was difficult to watch a girl that I cared for hang out with Mandarin. The reader could see past Grace's infatuation of Mandarin's coolness almost immediately. It was clear that Mandarin, while not a bad person, was a very troubled young woman. And she was leading Grace away from a steady path of success toward disaster.

It was hard to read Grace continue to make bad decisions to be more like Mandarin. I had to ration the pages I read, because I got so depressed. I didn't trust that she would see the light of day, because Grace was almost as messed up as Mandarin. The product of a young, single mother who cared only about pageants, Grace was raised with subtle hints that she was unlovable and worthless ever since she purposely screwed up her last pageant at age six. Not surprisingly, she had zero self-esteem and quickly lost sight of herself in the hopes of being like Mandarin. I spent much of the book vacillating between wanting to give Grace a hug and wanting to slap her upside the head.

Like Mandarin is a beautiful, but difficult book to read. The characters came to life to the extent that I felt personally invested in their choices. In the end, the plot arc is relatively predictable, but the journey there is an up and down roller coaster ride.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

16 comments:

  1. I haven't heard too much about this one, but it sounds like a great read. Sometimes I can appreciate a book that is predictable.

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  2. This one sounds pretty good, but I'm going to read Wanderlove first which I absolutely LOVE the sound of. If I love that one as much as I think I will, then I'll be checking out the authors other work. :)

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  3. Thanks for this lovely review! I had been wanting to read this book. Its sounds like something I would want to read.

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  4. Great review! I've seen this one around and always wondered if it was worth a read or not. I'm thinking I might have to add it to my TBR list and check it out. Thank you for sharing! :)

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  5. I've heard about this book but have been on the fence whether to read it or not. Great review!

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  6. I can definitely see why you had to ration your pages, I can tell I would have trouble watching Grace make decisions that you know are not in her best interest and can do absolutely nothing to stop it. Beautiful review Alison!

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  7. I think this book may be one those cases where the characters trump over the plot. With the constant sea of "mean girl" books, I like how these two characters interact and might be willing to oversee the predictable plot. I'll put it on my tbr pile. Thanks!

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  8. I haven't read this one yet, but Grace's attachment sounds realistic to me based on what you described. I could see how it would be frustrating to watch a character you like try to be something she's not. I've had this one on my TBR for a while. I hope to get to it someday.

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  9. Thanks for honest review. I've been eyeing this one for a while, undecided.

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  10. Great review! I've seen this one around and wondered about it. I have idolized a girl, my former best friend for almost 25 years. I finally got smart. (I'm very loyal.) I think I'd like to read this one, but like you, I'd probably have to ration those painful pages b/c I'd be Grace. Thanks for such an insightful review.

    Heather

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  11. I think making bad decisions are crucial to the growing up experience. It does make me cringe for the character though. depending on how it played out, I might be too annoyed to continue.

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  12. I really liked this book! It was beautifully written (have you read WANDERLOVE yet? It's fabulous!) and so easy to fall into that world. I'm with you, though. I felt so bad for Grace, who just wanted to be like Mandarin, despite Mandarin being bad news.

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  13. I totally agree this book was frustrating. I really wanted to like it since the writing was so great and I really liked Jane, but I gave up halfway through because I just couldn't get into it. Great review!

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  14. This sounds like a pretty good read, despite the fact it sounds like at times I will want to take this girl by the shoulders and shake some sense into her, haha.

    Plus, I'm obsessed with names and it's hard to not be intrigued by someone named Mandarin.

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  15. Despite some plot predictability, this one sounds like one I'd really enjoy. Thanks for reviewing it bc I've now put it on my TBR :)

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  16. I haven't read Like Mandarin yet. I follow the author's blog though, and her posts are always super interesting. I have Wanderlove on my TBR pile from NetGalley. That one's been getting great reviews so far!

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