Friday, March 11, 2011

ARC Review: GIRL WONDER

The Book: GIRL WONDER
The Author: Alexa Martin
The Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: May 3, 2011

Summary:
The first day of Senior year finds Charlotte Locke at a new school with no friends, a math SAT score so low that she has to go to (gasp!) public school--regular classes, not the gifted and talented program she is used to--and quickly approaching application deadlines for colleges she has no hope of getting into anyway. 

Enter Amanda Munger, resident Girl Wonder.  With an electrifying mop of hot pink hair, the kind of book smarts that makes the AP classes look like child's play, a track record of getting kicked out of every private school she's attended, and enough self-confidence for twenty girls, Amanda blazes in, saving Charlotte from a boring, friendless existence.

With Amanda as her new BFF, Charlotte ascends to the upper echelon of high school life, hanging with the popular kids and generally enjoying life...especially when it the hottest guy in school, Neal Fitzpatrick, starts to show an interest in her.  The only problem?  The closer Neal and Charlotte get, the more he wants to keep their relationship a secret, and it doesn't help that Amanda has suddenly become uber-competitive. 

Add to that: family problems (her mom and dad aren't getting along too well), a little brother whose genius-level IQ is a constant reminder to Charlotte just how lacking she is, and a mushroom-obsessed neighbor boy...and well, Charlotte has a whole mess of crap to handle all at once.

My Take:
GIRL WONDER is kind of like an onion.  There are a lot of layers here, and to get the full affect, you should probably peel them back a layer at a time. 

First, there's the family dynamic at play.  A mother who is a well-respected college professor, a writer father who is on the verge of critical and commercial success, and a genius for a younger brother all conspire to undermine Charlotte's confidence in herself.  Owning a learning disability (think dyslexia only with numbers), Charlotte is consistently failing to measure up to her father's impossibly high standards.  Her brother, while he doesn't mean to make her feel bad about herself, does from time to time with his over-achieving ways, and her mother...well, her mother is kind of stuck in her own marital woes at the moment.

Then, there's the friend aspect.  Mimi, the first person to befriend Charlotte, is brushed aside immediately.  Charlotte, it seems, is a little too concerned with surface qualities, a flaw she no doubt learned from having to work overtime to garner her father's approval.  But, being so shallow as to brush off certain people right at the get go (not just Mimi but Milton--the semi-cute, mushroom-hunting neighbor boy--as well), kind of made me not care for her at first.  But, really, if she wasn't like this at the beginning, there wouldn't really be a story here...right?

And, it's this lack of depth that brings about most, if not all, her problems.  Neal is hot and smart and semi-charming, but he's definitely a player and is using Char.  This is obvious to the reader, not so much to Charlotte.  Amanda is noteworthy in that I vacillated between liking her and hating her.  I wanted her to be the friend that Charlotte thought she was, but I knew, KNEW that she wasn't.  Did that stop me from hoping that maybe she'd change her ways and start being more friend-like to Char?  No.  Even up to Charlotte's discovery of what was really going on, I still held out hope, even though I knew what was going to happen. 

Like I said, this was obvious to the reader...not so much the main character.  But, isn't that always the case?

Overall, GIRL WONDER was an easy read.  Martin writes in such a way that you can't help but be drawn in.  That said, the beginning was a little on the slow side, somewhat dry in spots.  Still, I'd be interested in seeing what she comes up with next.