Title: Like Mandarin
Author: Kristen Hubbard
Date Released: March 8th, 2011
Rating: 3 out of 5
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.
Like Mandarin is a sort of coming of age story where main character Grace Carpenter tries to find herself, but sort of in the wrong place. She tries to find herself in Mandarin Ramney, the complete opposite of quiet and intelligent Grace.
Grace was a pageant child, you know, like Toddlers & Tiaras, except she was smart enough to quit, even though it cost her a close win, and a close relationship with her mother. Now she's sort of like the outcast-- she basically has no friends, and seems to have this obsession with Mandarin that she keeps to herself. When they're put together for a school project, they become close, and Grace tries changing into Mandarin, while it's slowly discovered that Mandarin isn't who she seems to be on the outside.
Like Mandarin was definitely about Grace trying to find herself. It was a coming of age story where Grace tries to see where she fits in. I think that because she was so lonely, she saw herself as being "like Mandarin" who was the complete opposite in personality and lifestyle.
I liked Like Mandarin and everything that was going on, from the ruined relationships to the unpredictable personality of Mandarin and making their plans to get out of boring Washokey. I just couldn't feel the connection with the characters though. Grace and Mandarin just seemed really far off to me, probably due to Grace being a bit too attached Mandarin and wanting to be exactly how she was. I think that the one character that I liked was Grace's little sister, Taffeta (weird name, but still, she's adorable).
Plot wise, I liked seeing the development of the relationship between Grace and Mandarin. It went from sweet and nice to a bit scary. I was becoming a little terrified after a while at how unpredictable Mandarin could be. Sometimes it could be a little slow, but the relationship developments between Grace and Mandarin, and even her mom as well, were what made Like Mandarin.
Overall, Like Mandarin was a good book. I wasn't completely in love with it because I don't think that it was completely for me since I tend to like a bit of romance in my books and this one doesn't have any romance. So, sometimes I felt that it dragged on a bit, but the whole novel overall was really intriguing with getting to explore the relationships that Grace has with others around her. I'm definitely going to pick up Kristen Hubbard's next book, Wanderlove, though to give that a try since I've only heard great things about it.
I think that the cover is an okay cover. I like the orange and green colors along with the picture on the bottom half. It doesn't really jump out at you though or convey anything significant, although I do love the attitude that the model is expressing.
*Description and cover from goodreads.com
**Review copy borrowed from my local library.