March 8th 2011
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.
When I started Like Mandarin, I wasn't really that sure what to expect. I mean, I knew what it was about , but I wasn't that sure about what was actually going to happen in it. And even in the book it didn't quite happen like I expected it too. Which is always good, I guess. But nevertheless, I really, really enjoyed Like Mandarin! It was really different from what I usually read, and I thought the lack of romance would put me off, but it really didn't. Like Mandarin was the book that got me out of my month long reading funk, and I'm not sure if that's because of Hubbard's beautiful writing or the characters and their story or all of it, but I'm sure as heck thankful. Reading funks are the worst.
Like Mandarin is the story of two girls, Grace, who is kind of invisible and doesn't want to stand out, yet longs to get away from Washokey, and Mandarin, who is a kind of a mystery-girl (but who EVERYONE in town has heard of) who's kind of messed up and kind of wants to get out. Not really likely friends, but when they get put together for a school project, fast friends they do make. Maybe a bit too fact, because they start planning to run away together and everything. (I know, I should totally write book summary's for a living... ;P) But that's kind of what I thought the whole book would be about. Their running away, but it wasn't. It was just more a focus on their friendship, and how it kind of went wrong. And I really enjoyed it.
I think this is one of the only books though, that I didn't fall in love with any of the characters. Don't get me wrong! I liked Grace and Taffeta (Grace's sister) fine, but they're not the sort of people who will linger with me, y'know. And I can see why Grace wanted to be like Mandarin, and why she's aspired to be like her for a while. Heck, even I admire the side of her that can take whatever rumours and insults come without a second glance, but at the same time, Mandarin's kind of a slut, and she's really messed up. Not really the best role model a fourteen year old can have. Also, Mandarin's mood swings and everything... Grace was pretty brave to hang around with her like she did... Not that Mandarin was a bad person, she was just a bit unstable, I guess..
And another person who kind of pissed me off was Grace's mum. You are seriously just being a dick if you're still holding a grudge against your daughter for messing up a beauty pageant 8 YEARS AGO. What is up with that?! And she was putting too much pressure on Taffeta, and as soon as she made herself out to be alright, she was an ass again! But at the end she was okay. I guess that's what this book was about too. Because of Mandarin, a lot of things got fixed in Grace's family too...
It's probably looking like I didn't enjoy the book much... I did! I'm just a bit rusty with my review writing is all. I LOVED Kirsten's writing. I could feel the Washokey wildwinds, and the dry summer heat. All of the emotions of the book you could really feel. The passion and anger and need for freedom from their small town was all there. I just really thought the writing was great.
Like Mandarin is an interesting, gripping, beautifully written book about the short lived, unlikely friendship between to girls who long to escape and one who finally does. 4 stars :D