Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Like Mandarin

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.
from goodreads.com

Beth says 3.5 Stars…

If I had to go out and rate this, I’d put it at a solid debut – not good, but not bad. The strength of the book is the descriptions of Wyoming and its badlands. They pull you into the book and allow for extraordinary visuals; I could really see what Hubbard was describing despite spending most of my life in the southeast United States. The beauty that came through in this book made me want to go and visit the badlands to experience it for myself. However, I didn’t feel the pull of the plot, or plots as it seemed. I didn’t feel the pull of the story to keep reading because I couldn’t see where everything headed, when I felt like I should have. The pageant storyline gave me Toddlers and Tiaras flashbacks and could have biased me against it. I’ve been trying to forget that scarring hour of television ever since I watched it so anything with child beauty queens creeps me out more than a little bit. The plot didn’t really capture my interest or flow terribly well. It rather meandered around aimlessly without making terribly much sense. The book instead mainly centered on the developing relationship between Mandarin and Grace, but the side plots felt off to me. They detracted from the main focus without enhancing the story.

I found the bad girl angle of Mandarin interesting, but something that hindered me relating to her. At times her rarely visible vulnerability felt forced. Her attitude, however, seemed highly accurate and realistic. I’m not one to tolerate a teenage bad/rebellious attitude in life or in any sort of media. Sometimes I had a strong urge to shake Mandarin and never really understood why she behaved the way she did. I wished that Grace would be stronger because she often ended up as a doormat for whoever happened to be around her. Her character was well formed, but it just wasn’t one that I particularly enjoyed. I think that’s the problem I had with this book; it wasn’t bad, but I didn’t connect with it. The characters were relatively good and decently three-dimensional yet never made a deep impression on me.

This book shows some promise and has moments of beautiful prose. However, I found the plot unappealing and the characters not very easy to relate to. Some people might really enjoy it, but I’m not one of them. If you absolutely adore realistic fiction then I’d suggest giving this one a try. If it’s not quite your favorite then this might not be the best choice.
Book from Library


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