Three girls with completely different styles, interests and upbringings initially clash during a ritzy summer boarding-school program in Switzerland before becoming the best of friends.
This cross-cultural story, which is narrated in short takes by each of the three protagonists in turn, is set during the summers of 1971, 1972 and 1973, with an epilogue ten years later. The book begins when the three girls—Vivien, a plump Jewish and Catholic Cuban, Shirin, a psychologically delicate high-born Iranian, and Ingrid, a wild, artistic Canadian girl of German extraction—are 14. The novel follows their romantic, scholastic, career-focused and personal adventures, charting their psychological progress as they transform from girl to woman. Once the three protagonists become friends, they provide each other with comfort, criticism and support, and the rolling first-person narration gives readers multiple perspectives on their lives. Although the girls talk about their devotion to each other, the biggest flaw in the story is that they seem so incompatible that readers will have a hard time buying into the frisson of their friendship. Moreover, despite the specificity of the time period and assorted historical references, the flavor of the era is never effectively conveyed and seems to have been selected to facilitate a big but unnecessary coincidence near the end of the story.The epilogue ties things up nicely though, making the journey worth taking. (Fiction. 12 & up)