Monday, August 15, 2011

MiddleGrade Monday: The Secret Language of Girls

The Secret Language of Girls, by Frances O’Roark Dowell

Publisher: Atheneum (Simon Schuster)
Pages: 256 (paperback)
Reading Level: 9-12 (middlegrade)
Enjoyment Level: Medium

This is another one from my good friends at Simon Schuster. And it’s another one I’d seen around and heard about, but didn’t read until I got my copy from the publisher.

From GoodReads:

In the old days, when Kate had no interest in romance, she never cared what other people thought. Now, it appeared, love was turning her into a rotten human being.

Eleven-year-old Kate Faber wishes she could talk to her best friend Marylin about this. But Marylin is no longer her best friend. Or is she? Kate and Marylin had always been the kind of best friends who lived on the same block for their entire lives and who could agree on the kind of boys worth kissing (only movie stars) or who should be invited to their sleepover (definitely not Mazie Calloway or Elinor Pritchard). The kind of best friends who didn't need words to talk, but who always just knew.

But lately Marylin has started to think that Kate can be a bit babyish. And Kate thinks that Marylin is acting like a big snob. And a lot of the time, well, it feels as though they just don't know each other anymore. Somehow nothing is the same, but secretly Kate and Marylin both wish that it could be....

I think I must be losing my touch with middlegrade books. I just wasn’t terribly impressed and I think part of it is just that I haven’t read many for this age range. I know what I liked and disliked about the book, but I might be behind in what’s the norm for MG books.

I liked the characters just fine. They seemed slightly young at times for being in sixth grade, but the personalities worked for me. The author did a wonderful job at building the girls and making them pop as real people in real situations, and all of the side characters were well-rounded. I don’t usually enjoy books where the point-of-view switches between characters, but it worked all right for this storyline. I did like getting both perspectives, since the book was about both of the girls.

The plot didn’t really work for me as well, though. It fell flat in several places and left me questioning the reasons behind various plot points. The writing was sort of simplistic, which, I think, led me in feeling like the girls were younger than sixth graders. I wanted a more mature writing style to really help drive the story and tie everything together. By the ending of the book, I still wasn’t quite sure where the plot was going, and it left me hanging, but not as though it was a cliffhanger.

In my mind, I’m comparing this to Princess for Hire, by Lindsey Leavitt and I much prefer that story and writing style to this one. That’s not to say others and MG girls won’t like this one. I just wouldn’t suggest it to reluctant readers, as it isn’t as fast-paced as other books. The characters are relatable for younger readers, so that’s a definite check in the pro column. Readers will be able to identify and others may have a better time enjoying the plot than I did. It’s worth checking out if you’ve got young girls in the house.

Until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate ~

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