Dowell returns to middle schoolers Kate and Marylin, whose friendship she has sensitively anatomized in The Secret Language of Girls (2004) and The Kind of Friends We Used to Be (2009).
In this final book in the trilogy, Kate and Marylin have drawn further apart, yet each still sees the other as a touchstone. Student-government member and cheerleader Marylin is finding herself torn between the vicious, queen-bee cheerleaders and sweet student-government president Benjamin Huddle. Meanwhile, budding rocker Kate is concerned that she’s drawing closer to fellow musician Matthew Holler than she’d like. The introduction of boys into the equation strains the friendships each has made with other girls. As in the previous books, Dowell moves the third-person narration back and forth, getting under their skins with honesty and empathy through vivid, often humorous prose. She refuses to oversimplify, allowing readers access to the girls’ homes as well as school, making it clear that their inner lives are as complicated as their readers’. Secondary characters, especially the girls’ parents, are likewise given satisfying emotional complexity. The nominal plot—a contest to fund a student-initiated project—doesn’t provide much action, but it gives Kate and Marylin an opportunity to make some stupid but ultimately epiphanic choices. Dowell and readers leave Kate and Marylin poised between childhood and adulthood—they are not finished, but they are on their way.
Another quietly perceptive tour de force. (Fiction. 10-14)