Friday, April 22, 2011

Book Review: Girl Wonder

Media Type: Book
Title: Girl Wonder
Author: Alexa Martin
Publisher: Hyperion
Pages: Hardcover; 304
Release Date: May 3, 2011
Source: Publisher/TBS
Intended Reading Group:
Young Adult

Content Screening:
Sexual situations, Cussing, Drug Use

HDB Rating:
3 Keys to My Heart

As if transferring senior year weren't hard enough, Charlotte Locke has been bumped to lower level classes at her new school. With no friends, a terrible math SAT score, and looming college application deadlines, the future is starting to seem like an oncoming train for which she has no ticket.

Then Amanda enters her orbit like a hot-pink meteor, offering Charlotte a ticket to something else: popularity. Amanda is fearless, beautiful, brilliant, and rich. As her new side kick, Charlotte is brought into the elite clique of the debate team—and closer to Neal, Amanda's equally brilliant friend and the most perfect boy Charlotte has ever seen.

But just when senior year is looking up, Charlotte’s life starts to crumble. The more things heat up between Charlotte and Neal, the more Neal wants to hide their relationship. Is he ashamed? Meanwhile, Amanda is starting to act strangely competitive, and she's keeping a secret Charlotte doesn't want to know.

Every now and then I stumble across a book that I'm completely conflicted about. After finishing Girl Wonder I'm still sitting here trying to rein my thoughts in enough to write a coherent review. See, Charlotte's story makes a lot of sense. I've been the girl in her shoes for a lot of situations, and even if I haven't experienced them all myself, I know that they exist. At the same time it seemed like Charlotte's life caused her to go through every single trial that can happen to a young person. I'll explain more about what I mean below, but it was kind of disorienting.

First off, let me say that the prose with which Alexa Martin writes is stunning! Every page in Girl Wonder comes to life with descriptions, and a lot of times I was able to place myself right beside Charlotte. As a reader who loves to be a part of the story, this really kept me engaged while I was reading. Similarly, the characters are extremely well written and vivid. Each one of them had a personality that shines off the page, and I could feel myself going through the range of emotions that come along with this book. You can trust me when I say that this book will make you feel. It might not always be good, but it will definitely be there.

Now on to Charlotte's story. My main problem with Charlotte specifically was her inability to pull herself out to the "black hole" into which she was falling. Don't misunderstand me. I knew she was hurting, I saw that she was lost, but the simple fact that she wouldn't grab on to any of the lifelines that were being thrown to her was so frustrating to me. I honestly disliked her so much in the middle of the book that I thought about putting it down. I ended up reading on because I hoped, that like most coming of age books, things would start to get better for her. I kept wishing she'd look at the good things she was being given, instead of always being so negative all the time.

I understood that Charlotte was dealing with a lot. She has a learning disability, she isn't in the GATE program like she was supposed to be, she has to move her Senior year, her parents are fighting, the boy she loves is giving her mixed signals, and her so called friend is manipulative. Are you exhausted yet? I was. This only skims the surface of what is going on in Charlotte's life. I'm not denying that there are teens out there who have all this hit them in their teenage years. However this all happens to her in a matter of just one year. My conflicting emotions made me want to hug Charlotte sometimes, and slap her at others for not seeing things that were clearly there. It made this otherwise beautiful book a very tough read for me. It was almost like there was a checklist of things that happen to teens, and Charlotte had to fulfill them all.

I don't mean to imply that this book isn't a great read. It honestly is. As I mentioned above, it does make you feel and the way that Alexa Martin deals with the stigma of learning disabilities is brilliant. I was also very much drawn in by her exploration of what "love" really is. It isn't only Charlotte who is trying to figure that out in this book, and it's beautiful to watch these characters grow and learn. Honestly if it hadn't been for poor Charlotte's insane year of life, I think I would have been a lot more in love with this book. I wanted to yell, "Give the girl a break already!"

I'll end with the simple fact that this is a book about growing up and I understand that. Girl Wonder is an exploration of what it means to be an older teenager who still hasn't figured everything out yet. It is a beautifully written example of the utter hopelessness that comes along with being in this situation. For that I applaud Alexa Martin. Although there were some rough spots for me, I do see the beauty in this book. I believe that if you can in with an open heart and mind, you will too.

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.


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