Monday, May 9, 2011
Delacorte Press, 2011
I had really high expectations for this book as people had gushed about it for months but in the end, I was left feeling, "so what?" I didn't hate it but I didn't think it was outstanding or astonishingly fantastic. It was maybe a bit better than average.
I'll admit that I wasn't thrilled with the premise and mostly read it for the Contemps Challenge. Grace, a native of Wyoming, longs to leave and wants to be like Mandarin, the beautiful confident older girl who has also been dubbed the town slut. One day, Mandarin seems to actually want to be friends and they embark on plans to finally leave their crappy town. But all is not as it appears with Mandarin as Grace learns to her dismay.
I don't know if it's because I'm older than the 14-year old Grace as well as the 17-year old Mandarin but I didn't think Mandarin was anything special. The revelation Grace has toward the end mirrors what I figured out fairly early on thus I spent most of the book waiting for Grace to catch up to me. The many pages wasted on speculations about Mandarin's motivations and actions just bored me. Grace, as someone so interested in Mandarin, was fairly boring herself except for her passion for academia, which I did enjoy.
The plot I was interested in was Grace's younger sister Taffeta, a beauty queen with an amazing voice. Their mother seems to prefer Taffeta because of their bond over beauty pageants whereas Grace had embarrassed their mother spectacularly in childhood by flashing the audience at her final pageant. The interplay of the family was much more fascinating to me. They seem broken but by the end, they look to be on the path to healing.
The writing was quite good with amazingly evocative descriptions of the small-town in Wyoming where they reside. However I felt it could have been more spare; some sentences felt unnecessarily long with details I didn't care about.
Cover: I really the orange hints (the spine and the book itself are orange) because when I hear Mandarin, I think Chinese language first and orange second so I find that fitting.
Read for Contemps Challenge and YA Debut Author.