Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Secret Language of Girls, by Frances O'Roark Dowell

I'll be reviewing Dowell's latest book in a few weeks and thought I should go back and read some earlier ones. This particular one is something of a minor classic in tween reads.

Kate and Marylin have been best friends since they were in nursery school, but when they enter sixth grade things start to change between them. At first it is the influence of Flannery, a girl who moves into the neighborhood, who seduces Marylin away from Kate. But in the end, Marylin and Kate find that they just want different things from life: Marylin wants to become popular and Kate wants to just enjoy life and her friends. Strangely, no matter how apart they drift, they both come to realize that they will always share a bond.

Each chapter in the book stands on its own as a short story exploring the strains and pulls on the friendship between Kate and Marylin. Told in a passive first person voice (usually from the point of view of one of the girls, but sometimes through the eyes of Marylin's little brother), each chapter takes on a different theme (friendship, kissing, divorce, marriage, etc.). The writing is fairly basic and the tone fairly preachy (there are obvious morals to draw from each story). Dowell is clear to avoid any language that would lose the younger reader. This could have made the book unreadable, but there is a basic sweetness to the stories that redeems them.

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