Wednesday, December 14, 2011

[Review] Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard

Title: Like Mandarin {goodreads}
Authors: Kirsten Hubbard
Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 08/03/2011
Publisher: Random House (Delacorte Press)
RRP: $17.99
Source: Birthday gift

Precautions: PG (15+) - Moderate swearing, sexual scenes, drugs and drinking
Pages: 320
My Rating:

     It's hard to find beauty in the badlands of Washokey, Wyoming. Fourteen-year-old Grace Carpenter sure knows there's nothing beautiful about her mother's pageant obsessions, or about the cowboy dances or pickup trucks adored by her small-town classmates. True beauty is wild-girl Mandarin Ramey: seventeen, shameless and utterly carefree. Studious and self-conscious Grace would give anything to be like Mandarin.
     When these girls, so utterly different from one another, are united for a school project, they embark on 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. When Mandarin suggests that they make a pact to run away, Grace plays along with the idea on a whim. Maybe it's the wildwinds that plague their badlands town that make her say yes.
     After a while, however, Grace has second thoughts. It turns out that Mandarin's unique beauty hides a girl who's troubled--even dangerous. And no matter how hard Grace fights to keep their friendship alive, even the strongest relationships can't withstand betrayal.
     Kirsten Hubbard's bold novel will resonate with anyone who has ever yearned to escape--from home, from others, or from herself.
My thoughts: 

My Synopsis:

Grace has always wanted to be like Mandarin. Cool, effortlessly seductive and unafraid. Grace hides away in books and geometry and has done so since her fallout with her pageant-obsessed mother. But when she forms an unlikely bond with Mandarin - the Mandarin Ramey - she realises that what lies underneath all of that beauty is a broken home, a broken girl.
As Grace falls more and more into Mandarin's world, she realises there are still many things that separate them. Like, the fact that Mandarin wants nothing more than to leave the small-town immediately, that the prospect of getting away is dead serious to her. Or what about her promiscuity? Betrayals and disappointments lead the girls to a heartfelt conclusion that will shake readers to their very core.

A provocative and atmospheric story that captured my heart and brought me to the very essence of county life where nothing seems to change and the air reeks of oppression.

I was EXTREMELY excited to read this book right from the moment I heard about it. It just took me so long to actually get around to it.

The pages within this book are magical. They succeeded in transporting me to a whole new world - the little hick town of Washokey, Wyoming. The badlands, the jackalopes and jackrabbits and hunting and beauty pageants and fields of untamed land, the lack of ocean, the cowboy hats and boots, the tailgate parties and trucks and wood and cider and just the closeness of such a community. The place really enveloped me and I was enchanted by it all.

Jackalopes & animal-head trophies

Most of the residents love it there, or at least they love the familiarity of the place they'd grown up in. Mandarin wants nothing more than to get out of the place. Grace and Mandarin do lots of wild things together - such as running outside school to dance in the cottonwood whirlwind, and swimming in the local muck-covered lake at midnight.

"We spun like children in a school yard game, kicking up billows of glistening cotton, drinking in the crazy-making wildwinds with each gasp. They tore strands of hair from my braid, whipping my face. I found I was blinking back tears--from the winds or what, I didn't know. At that moment, I would have followed her anywhere." (Grace, p. 182)
Grace, I believe, is quite a relatable character. She has a quiet energy that buzzes around in her mind. She's never had the self-confidence and strength that she believes Mandarin has, always conscious of what others would think of her if she were to step out of line. For most of her life, she's admired and been borderline-obssessed with Mandarin. It's a bit creepy, to be honest, the extent to which she watches Mandarin and how much she knows about her. At least from sight. However, it's not far-fetched, considering how different Mandarin is, that Grace has such a fascination with her. I didn't particularly like Grace, but that didn't stop me for feeling for her.

Mandarin is such a complex character. I was fascinated by her, as Grace was. As their friendship deepens, so does the exploration of truth about Mandarin's personal affairs. We learn how vulnerable she is, and why she hasn't left yet, and why she wants to finish high school. Why she takes a liking to Grace. Their relationship is so slippery, but memorable.

Source: Kirsten Hubbard

If you're looking for sweep-you-of-your-feet romance, look elsewhere. This book is about friendship and growing up and moving on and understanding and families. It can be speculated that Grace and Mandarin shared some electricity, but Kirsten Hubbard doesn't even know herself, so it's open for discussion. ;) There are definitely some suggestive moments, but the bond that the girls share is anything but ordinary. There are little hints of romance, but due to Grace's transformations she never lets this guy in, decent as he may be. I like to think that in the future she does start to pay more attention to him and think of him as more than a classmate.

The writing in this book is flawless. Hubbard writes with a fluid ease that allowed me to get sucked into the plot quite easily. Despite the slowness of it all. If you're looking for ACTION, you might get bored. If you're a fan of gritty contemporary reads, I implore you to give this one a go. This is definitely not a story I will be forgetting anytime soon, especially that bittersweet ending.


* cheapest Australian e-store price


Fishpond * | Readings | Dymocks | Angus & Robertson | Borders | The Nile


Grab a paperback copy ~ listings here

All links from Booko, because I'm too lazy to search each individual store anymore.


From now on, I hope to include extras with each review, so that YOU know all you can before you decide to read the books or not.

Like Mandarin bookmarks: I'll be hosting a giveaway, as soon as I receive Wanderlove bookmarks and know how many I can give out. It will be a Kirsten Hubbard crazy swag giveaway! It will be international. :) 

Kirsten Hubbard vlogs ~ check it out at her Youtube channel!

Kirsten Hubbard's awesomeness ~ just a couple snippets; you can raid her blog if you want more. ;)
Kirsten's LIKE MANDARIN inspirations:
  1. The badlands
  2. Jackalopes
  3. The Tombs
  4. Saloons
  5. The Cottonwoods (I actually quoted this one in the review!)
  6. The Big Horn River
  7. Pageants
  8. The Canal

Other LIKE MANDARIN reviews
Book Swarm: 99/100, A {link}
A Good Addiction: 5 stars {link}
Holes in My Brain: 9/10 {link}
Phoebe North: Recommended {link}
Carolina Valdez Miller: "breathtakingly timeless" {link}
Steph Su Reads: "a good debut novel" {link}

Check out my review of Wanderlove, Kirsten's sophomore novel, tomorrow!

I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

Challenge: 2011 YA Debut Challenge

* any images I didn't include the source for, were found using Google images. ;) I own none of them.

When I was younger I wanted to be like Mulan. I'm not talking joining the war or anything here, but ever since I first saw the Disney movie she'd been my favourite among the princesses. I just wanted to be strong and brave and athletic and intelligent and quick on my feet.

YA equivalent heroines: Tris (Divergent), Katsa (Graceling), Emmajin (Daughter of Xanadu), Ellie Linton (Tomorrow series), Gaia Stone (Birthmarked), Juliette (Shatter Me)

Your turn! Who would you have given anything to be like?

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