Saturday, October 16, 2010

Invisible Girl, by Mary Hanlon Stone

Stephanie has taught herself plenty of tricks for surviving her mother's abuse. She has her Nancy Drews to inspire her and her vocabulary of "Warrior Words" to give her strength. She knows how to hide when her mother has been drinking and is in a mean mood. But when it is finally decided to rescue her from her mother and send her to a wealthy family on the other side of the country in Los Angeles while things get "sorted out" as home, she is completely unprepared to deal with the meanness of the girls she meets there. At first, she finds herself meekly accepting her peer's abuse (following the model she learned from dealing with Mom), but when another (and much stronger) new girl arrives, this new girl's kindness motivates Stephanie to stand up for herself.

While the story of finding one's inner strength in the face of mean peers and hapless adults is tired and old, there are two things that make this book stand out: the careful plotting of the way that a nasty cohort of teens can develop and maintain its hold, and the strikingly unrelated exploration of being a Muslim American. The former is also not original, but Stone figures out the logistics of young teen peer pressure quite well (and in a much more interesting fashion than you might find in a Clique novel). The diversion into Muslim life is a bit of a bizarre twist (and largely not organic to the story), but is interesting nonetheless. Unfortunately, it (along with the end) seems to be a bit of a rush job. The story halts awfully abruptly, leaving a number of key issues unresolved (but leaving room for reader imagination).

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