- Pub. Date: March 2011
- Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
- Format: Hardcover , 320pp
- Sales Rank: 181,974
- Age Range: Young Adult
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.
Right away I was able to connect with the main character, Grace. She is the socially awkward smart girl who just wants to be like the popular girls, in this case Mandarin, that everyone wants to be or looks to as the bad girl – wild and free. Grace has disappointed her mother early in life by throwing her final big beauty pageant chances out the window on a whim of disobedience. Grace is paired with Mandarin by a teacher that is hoping that Grace will be able to help Mandarin pass her classes and graduate. Little does this teacher know that this is going to prove to be an interesting lesson for Grace to live though and that she is going to get hurt along the way.
My favorite part of this book is when Grace and Mandarin liberate the stuffed mounts in town. It is just odd to see these two high school girls break into grocery story and restaurant in town and then set these heads free down the river. This scene made a lasting impression on me. Maybe in part that this was Grace’s way of trying to keep Mandarin as a friend after they got into a disagreement. There are very little distances that teenagers will go to keep those they want close to them close.
There are multiple layers to this book, as well. I like that there was not just one story line but there are at least two. The second is that of Grace and her mother and their relationship. Grace has a little sister named Taffeta and their mother is putting her through the pageants that Grace never finished. Grace feels as though she was never wanted and Taffeta was perfectly planned and is everything her mother wants. It was interesting to see how these views grow throughout the book.
I also enjoyed the little science lesson that were mixed in the book here and there. Things like a river flowing north instead of south and information about the rocks and winds.
Overall, this was a pretty good read. While not the best book I have read, it was worth reading and would be great for a teenage girl who just doesn’t feel like she fits in her world.
3.5 of 5 stars. Worth the read.