Sunday, May 22, 2011
Girl Wonder by Alexa Martin
Summary: Charlotte's life pretty much sucks. Forced to transfer her senior year, a learning disability keeps her from getting into an exclusive prep school. That same disability keeps her from getting into the gifted and talented program at her new high school. Going to a large public high school after years spent in an all girl environment is a culture shock, and Charlotte flounders. However, she has the good luck to fall into the orbit of Amanda. Brilliant, beautiful and eager to break every rule, Amanda is clearly the Alpha Girl of Shady Grove. Charlotte soon becomes her willing flunky. Following Amanda's lead keeps her from thinking about her perfect little brother, her newly pretentious author dad, and the cracks in her parents' marriage. However, being Amanda's "friend" may cost Charlotte more than she realizes.
What Works: Martin nails the voice of a young woman who is completely at sea. Charlotte has nothing to hold on too -- dad's a jerk, mom's preoccupied and little brother tries, but is a little brother. In a family of high achievers, she's the odd one out, who has completely internalized her family's (perceived) disappointment with her. Charlotte's lack of self-worth makes her fixation on and loyalty to Amanda believable, and a little squirm inducing. Charlotte is such a doormat, that some readers (me) might get annoyed with her, but her actions are realistic and understandable.
What Doesn't: The secondary characters in this book range from weak to paper-thin. Even Amanda is little more than a rebellious attitude and a hair color. This weakness shows up the most with the adult characters, who play a large role in Charlotte's life, but are never fully fleshed out. Also, there is just a touch of the after-school special about this book. Charlotte is constantly pushed into situations where she's uncomfortable, substances are ingested and bad choices are made. The result feels a little judgmental.
Also: The way that Charlotte's learning disability is handled bugged the hell out of me. It is hard for me to believe that a family like this wouldn't get Charlotte the help she needs. However, my husband, who has the same learning disability that Charlotte has, says that his learning problems were ignored until college. So maybe I'm just super optimistic.
Please Note: This book has an awesome cover!
Who Would I Give this Book To: Smart Girls, Stupid Choices books are always popular, and I can see girls looking for coming of age books liking this. I would not give it to a teen dealing with a learning disability, as Charlotte never really comes to terms with her learning differences.