Have you ever met or known that girl, who had such a spirit and carefree soul, she reminded you of the wild Mustangs that roamed free, untamed and untouchable. I read someplace where Kirsten Hubbard had to describe each of her books with one word. Longing is the word she gave "Like Mandarin." And yes, at some point in time, whether they were like Mandarin or not, we've all longed to be that other girl. Even I wanted to be like Mandarin.
But underneath all that haunting mystery of a girl, when the magic of awe is removed, Grace learns her fantasy idol is anything but.
Kirsten writes with a prose flare, appropriately mixing in the right about of "likes" or "comparisons." One of my favorite lines, is when she described how the other Kindergartners reacted to Grace's little sister's kaleidoscope find:
They swarmed around her like ants to a fallen bit of candy.
Or when she described the other teenagers at school:
The wholesome farm kids, like glasses of milk, and the bored bad kids, who made their own fun.
How Kirsten flavors her words is the style of writing I like to write myself (though I am in NO WAY suggesting I write as well as her....but I will, someday.) It's a smooth, simple, quick read (things that may make an author shudder but in no way do I think make for negative qualities.) It's a contemporary novel about an unlikely friendship and how that future shapes each girl. No romance beyond the romantic notion of being someone else for a time.
Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard official synopsis:
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.