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!