Monday, March 21, 2011

Awesome Book Reviews: LIKE MANDARIN by Kirsten Hubbard

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.

Review: I have been waiting to read this book for more than a year. The first time I discovered Kirsten was through the uber-awesome YA Highway site, and after reading her debut's description, I was an instant fangirl. And when LIKE MANDARIN landed on my doorstep, I prayed the book was just as amazing as that gorgeous description.

Folks, I was NOT disappointed.

I could tell you to read this book for several reasons. Characterization is unbelievably thorough, with Grace disdaining her pageant-y past and longing for more. Or Mandarin, wily and mysterious without being cliche. I could gush about the perfect world-building, and how Washokey felt so real I thought I was actually living there. This is probably one of the most vivid settings I've ever seen in a contemporary (usually, the type of detail shown in LIKE MANDARIN is saved for sci-fi/dystopians/urban fantasies/historicals). 

But the real reason why I loved LIKE MANDARIN is this: Kirsten Hubbard is not a writer, she is an artist. She crafts one beautiful sentence after another, as if writing predictable and overused descriptions/emotions were a sin. There's power in the simplicity of her words. She can break your heart or make you smile with just one image. I finished this book and thought to myself, "I will never be as good as her."

Then I thought, "I will never get this book out of my head."

You read how Grace and Mandarin are searching for someplace magic in that summary, right?

My someplace magic is Kirsten's writing. I am forever a fangirl. 

Make sure you go pick up your copy of LIKE MANDARIN, which is in stores now!


Pam Harris said...

This book truly was AWESOME! The writing was so beautiful and the characters were completely authentic--I can't wait to see what Kirsten Hubbard has in store for us next. :)

Katrina L. Lantz said...

Curse you, Amparo! I've been doing so well on my book-buying diet and now I want to cheat to buy this book. Gah!

Great review! :)

Stephanie said...

Just added it to my TBR list!!! Sounds great!!!!

Lindsay said...

Wonderful review, Amparo :)

Kell Andrews said...

I've heard great things about this book too. On the TBR list!

Stina said...

I have the book, but haven't read it yet. I was in the mood for romance. :D

Hmmm. And maybe I won't read it for awhile. I hate books that make me want to quit writing because I'll never be as good as the author. ;)

RaShelle Workman said...

I've heard so many great things about it. Can't wait to read. =D