Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Book Review: Girlwood by Claire Dean

I finished up Girlwood yesterday evening while sipping tea in the coffee shop near Do Jump while Davan was in class. Usually, I either go for a walk or sit in the van to read, but I have another cold. I'd suspected that what Davan and I had was different, as I wasn't stuffy at all with what I had last week. This week, I'm mirroring her experience of last week to a large extent. I'd still say I'm not as sick because she kept falling asleep her first day and my first day is under my belt without anything that serious. I even still did my Do Jump class, although I was totally whipped by the end. At any rate, sitting in the cold van was just not appealing last night, so I splurged on tea. The tea was only okay, but the warm place to sit and read was invaluable.

Girlwood is a fairly new book, having been released in 2008 and is a coming of age book. Our main character, a twelve year old who turns thirteen over the course of the book, is Polly. Polly loves the woods near their home, a passion she shares with her grandmother.

The story starts with Polly's older sister, who's gone astray in the last year or so with drugs and such, coming into Polly's room and telling her that she has to go to the woods to heal herself. Sure enough, in the morning, 16 year old Bree is gone. Search parties turn up nothing.

Can she survive in the woods? Is anyone helping her? Is that really where she is? These are all the questions Polly struggles with along with family difficulties and social issues at school.

While there are definitely some older themes with boyfriends, even for the kids Polly's age, alcohol and drug use and reference to sex, Girlwood is still a really good book about the pressures many middle schoolers face, woven through with themes from nature. How important is being out in nature? Should wild spaces be preserved?

Additionally, with the nature theme, each chapter begins with a short bit about a plant - it's uses and what parts are eatable, which certainly aroused my curiosity about the subject of eatable plants.

I enjoyed Girlwood and will give it to Davan to read. I give it a 7.5.

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