Saturday, September 19, 2009
Girlfriend Material, by Melissa Kantor
A bit late in the season, but what screams Summer read louder than a teen romance on the beach? In this case, it's Cape Cod and Kate and her mother have fled here from Utah while her Mom sorts out things with Dad. At first, Kate absolutely doesn't want to be here (having been dragged away from her tennis, a writing class, Dad, and her friend). Things don't start off well as their hosts' daughter snubs Kate pretty strongly and Kate is left to spend the days by herself. Gradually, she makes some friends and things improve. The love interest (Adam) helps her mood much more and a youngster taking tennis lessons from her adds some wisdom from the mouth of a babe. As one would expect, it all wraps up nicely in the end with a few minor surprises.
The formulaic nature of the book is, of course, part of its charm. You don't pick up a book like this expecting to be surprised. Not that there aren't a few of those: Kate's got a nice literary thing going (strangely enough, with Hemingway -- not usually the focus of teen girls) and the tennis student is a surprisingly strong character. Still, this is a book that needed heavier editing: the mother-daughter interaction barely reaches out of stereotypes, the subplot about the parental marital difficulties is weak, Kate's relationships with just about everyone (sister, best friend, new friends, and even boyfriend) are sketchy and undeveloped. The other characters (and the plot itself) works best as an instrument to allow Kate to narrate to us. And she's a fantastically dry and cynical narrator. I laughed several times. For a bit of warm Summery feeling, this book is the right sort of material.