LIKE MANDARIN by Kirsten Hubbard


Age Range: 12 & up
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Mandarin Ramey is the girl everyone wants to be or be with. Everyone in the tiny town of Washokey, Wyo., is obsessed with Mandarin, but no one as much as Grace. At 14, Grace is bookish and awkward, the exact opposite of the wild and carefree Mandarin. When they are paired to complete a school project, it is a dream come true for Grace. Mandarin helps Grace find freedom, encouraging her to dance in the blizzard of cotton falling from the trees, skinny-dip in the canal and liberate the animal trophies decorating the grocery store. As Grace begins to emulate Mandarin’s dress, attitude and wild ways, she must also confront the darker side of her new friend. Mandarin’s life is steeped in fear, liquor and a large helping of lies. Grace forgives Mandarin at every turn, but a final betrayal proves nearly impossible to get past. The sparse landscape is the perfect backdrop for the richly detailed characters that populate this coming-of-age story. Grace’s escalating relationship with Mandarin is so raw that it is painful to watch at times. Unfortunately, Grace’s character is often overshadowed by the much more provocative and interesting Mandarin, making this more Mandarin’s story than Grace’s. An attempt to present Grace’s take-away lesson at the end feels artificial. This is a good story that would have been better with a change of focus. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: March 8th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-385-73935-1
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2011


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