Monday, May 11, 2015

Hyacinth Girls

Hyacinth Girls by Lauren Frankel
Crown Publishing: 5/12/2015
eBook review copy, 304 pages
hardcover ISBN-13: 9780553418057

My Thoughts:

Hyacinth Girls by Lauren Frankel is a highly recommended, powerful novel about bullying.

"Do you know your children?"

That is the question Rebecca, the guardian of 13 year old Callie,  wants the parents of other teens to ask themselves. She has a billboard made that features Callie's face and the pointed question erected in hopes that someone will take notice. But to tell us the story of what has happened, Rebecca goes back six months to an incident where Callie was accused of bullying another student, Robyn. Callie denies the accusations and Rebecca rallies to her side, defending her.

As she relates the story behind the billboard, Rebecca also reminisces about the past. She has been a part of Callie's life since her birth. She was best friends with Callie's mother, Joyce, and took over as her guardian when Joyce died. Rebecca and Joyce called themselves the "hyacinth girls" and were inseparable for a time. Rebecca does her best to understand what Callie is experiencing while at the same time she is recalling past betrayals in her friendship with Joyce. But Rebecca doesn't really understand at all what Callie is going through or what role she has played in the drama unfolding.

The narrative is separated into separate sections where the story is told first from Rebecca's point of view and then Callie's point of view. The story gets much better and acquires some depth once we can read Callie's thoughts. It's not that Rebecca's character is awful, but she seems rather simple and naive. Once Callie's voice is given, at over half way through, the narrative takes on more depth. Included throughout all sections are short numbered installments detailing the history of Callie's interaction through messages and texts with Robyn, the girl she was accused of bullying.

While the writing is quite good and the story timely, I've lowered my rating one star simply because of the length of the first section told in Rebecca's voice. The true reality of what is going on doesn't come to life until you start to read Callie's story. As most people know, teens keep secrets and you will likely suspect that there are secrets, but won't quite understand the whole story until later, even the story of Callie's childhood and her parents. This is a novel that deserves some attention. Mean girls have always existed and nothing seems to change that equation. (Look at Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye.)

 Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Crown Publishing for review purposes.

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