Like Mandarin

Like Mandarin
Genre(s)
Age Range
14+
Release Date
March 08, 2011
ISBN
978-0385739351
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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.

Editor review

1 review
I Like Mandarin
Overall rating
 
4.3
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
After finishing "Imaginary Girls", I wasn't sure if I was ready for another "young girl admires wild girl" novel, which was what LIKE MANDARIN promised to be. I'm very happy I decided that I didn't care, because Kirsten Hubbard's novel was completely different and, in my opinion, far more enjoyable.

Protagonist Grace is an awkward, bony fourteen. She is too smart for her Wyoming town full of cowboys, beauty pageants, and dead-end futures. When Grace is paired up for a project with rebellious, beautiful Mandarin Ramey, she is swept up by the prospect of getting attention and finally living. When Grace discovers the roots of Mandarin's behavior, she has to decide if this is someone she wants to follow.

Hubbard's triumph is in her characterization of Grace. Every adolescent has an older girl who she wishes to emulate. I remember an older girl at camp who wore a Colby sweatshirt. For some reason, I thought that was her name (I wasn't brilliant), and thought it was the coolest name in the world. Grace's feelings for Mandarin are similar: she knows her class schedule, she practices sauntering like her, and she keeps tabs on the many men with whom Mandarin is rumored to have affairs. This kind of infatuation is difficult to describe, but Hubbard does it beautifully, making the reader cringe while understanding that this is a part of growing up. I particularly love that Grace's younger sister has the same feelings for her...we are all the cool older girl for someone else.

There are many affecting scenes in the novel, but the one that sticks with me is when Grace is invited into Mandarin's bedroom for the first time. It is described as having scuff marks all over the bottom third of the walls. As if I was a gossipy native of their small town, I immediately assumed it was something sex-related, as Mandarin doesn't deny being promiscuous. When she angrily kicks the wall, leaving another scuff mark, I realized that the truth was so much sadder: this lonely girl is so caged by her identity and the lack of possibilities in her town that she has to lash out. Mandarin's scuff marks on the wall are the residue that remains with me after finishing this novel.

One minor nitpick: While the cover of the novel is gorgeous, it doesn't seem to be a picture of either of the two girls. Mandarin is famous for her black hair, angular cheekbones, and tea-colored eyes. Grace is too young, awkward, and plain to be the girl on the cover.

Read more of my reviews at www.bookchomper.blogspot.com.
Good Points
Excellent characterization
A compelling story with a great ending
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User reviews

1 review
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot
 
5.0(1)
Characters
 
5.0(1)
Writing Style
 
5.0(1)
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Gorgeously written.
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Like Mandarin was one of those books that I literally devoured from start to finish. It drew me in literally from the first page with Grace's description of her hometown and her life growing up. This book is everything that a normal teenage girl faces in her lifetime. From jealousy, to regret, right down to that awkward feeling you get when you just don't seem to understand the relationship between you and your mother anymore. Grace's life is so real, so palpable, that it's hard not to get wrapped up in who she is. There are so many different types of relationships explored in this book that it becomes a whirlwind read and before you know it, it's over, leaving you wanting more.

In terms of characters, this book is a veritable playground of different personality types. Those of you who love character driven books will melt into this book! Grace is nothing at all like a lot of the YA female protagonists out there. She is her own person, and you won't find one bit of whiny or vapid person in her. Grace is just...Grace. A girl who is a little lost, extremely intelligent, and just lonely overall. Enter Mandarin. To say that Mandarin pops off the page is a complete understatement. Where Grace is like a softly blowing wind, Mandarin is like a tornado. At 17 years old, she is promiscuous, openly defiant against all adults, and really doesn't seem to give a damn who sees it.

Grace sees it, and she wants it. She follows Mandarin's every move, watching the way she holds herself and the way she reacts to things. Grace becomes entangled in pleasing Mandarin and trying to continue to be interesting to her so that their "friendship" won't fall apart. If you're starting to think that this sounds like a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship, you're kind of right. However it goes so far beyond that. Grace doesn't just want to be with Mandarin, she wants to be Mandarin. She craves that free spirit and the ability to let go of what everyone else thinks. Unfortunately people like Mandarin are often lost and lonely themselves, and Grace ends up in a very manipulative relationship.Truthfully the tension and chemistry between these two characters is beautifully written. If they don't draw you in, I don't know what will.

I'm rambling now so I'll wrap up here. Like Mandarin is a story about relationships of all kinds. Those between mothers and daughters, those between "friends", and even the relationship you have to learn to have with yourself. Kirsten Hubbard's writing shines of the pages in this book, and her characters are sure to grab you and draw you in. I cannot recommend you reading this book enough! Beg or borrow a copy, whatever you have to do. Grace and Mandarin are well worth your time, and I can't wait to get my own copy and read it again.
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