Publish Date: March 8th, 2011
Publisher: Delacorte Press Books
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.
I really like Kirsten Hubbard! I've never met her personally, but we've swapped words over email and social media, I've followed her blog and such and she's sent me goodies in the mail before. What a lovely lady!
I've owned this book and Wanderlove for quite some time now, but just recently got around to reading Like Mandarin. It wasn't what I expected to be honest! I did enjoy reading it; it was light, easy and flowed nicely but I was expecting travels and adventure. What I got instead was a 14 year old who appeared older than she is and a secondary character that stole the spotlight, along with descriptive paragraphs like you couldn't imagine. I think based on Kirsten's own travel experiences and the mention of travel on the back of the book, I thought I would be whisked away to places I've never been. But once I realized that wouldn't happen, I was alright with it, and read the book anyways.
Grace is the main character who is forced into partnership with Mandarin at school. She can't believe it at first. Grace has always been fascinated by Mandarin and her ways, almost to the point of obsession. She wants to be like Mandarin and act like her, though Grace is shy, quiet and sticks to herself. I did find Grace to be a bit plain. Nothing about her stood out to me, she was just a regular girl growing up in Wyoming, but I feel like that was slightly on purpose so that we focused on Mandarin and what made her the gossip of the town. Once we meet Mandarin I was drawn into her dark and mysterious ways. I wanted to figure her out. With the way everyone in town talked about her and how Grace idolized her, I couldn't wait to learn her secrets.
What I really enjoyed about Like Mandarin was the descriptive narrative I mentioned earlier. At times it felt like I was there in the badlands hearing the wind whistle. Hubbard has such a magical voice in her writing and I cannot wait to see that come to life in Wanderlove.