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Review: Girl Wonder

June 16, 2011

Title: Girl Wonder
Author: Alexa Martin
Publisher: Hyperion
Pages: 304
Release Date: May 3, 2011
Format: Electronic Galley via NetGalley (Thank you!)

As if transferring senior year weren’t hard enough, Charlotte Locke has been bumped to lower level classes at her new school. With no friends, a terrible math SAT score, and looming college application deadlines, the future is starting to seem like an oncoming train for which she has no ticket.
Then Amanda enters her orbit like a hot-pink meteor, offering Charlotte a ticket to something else: popularity. Amanda is fearless, beautiful, brilliant, and rich. As her new side kick, Charlotte is brought into the elite clique of the debate team—and closer to Neal, Amanda’s equally brilliant friend and the most perfect boy Charlotte has ever seen.
But just when senior year is looking up, Charlotte’s life starts to crumble. The more things heat up between Charlotte and Neal, the more Neal wants to hide their relationship. Is he ashamed? Meanwhile, Amanda is starting to act strangely competitive, and she’s keeping a secret Charlotte doesn’t want to know.
Talented newcomer Alexa Martin delivers a poignant story of first love, jealousy and friendship, where the ups and downs of senior year have never been so complicated. What else can Charlotte do but throw her hands up and ride?–Goodreads

From the minute I started Girl Wonder, I felt a bond with the main character, Charlotte. I was her in high school—the smart, hard-working girl who knows she’s smarter than her standardized test scores say she is; the people pleaser whose biggest fear is disappointing others; the girl who desperately wants some social mobility in the hierarchy of public high school popularity; the girl who will do anything to get the attention of THAT guy.

Yeah. I was her. In fact, the parallels between me and Charlotte are a little uncanny. I felt as if I was reading my own high school story, which made it actually kind of hard to get through—I wanted to go into the book, sit Charlotte down, and tell her all the things she should do to “fix” her problems. But since she’s not really real, all I could do was read and sort of re-live all my crazy high school days.

*le sigh*

My favorite thing about this book was actually Charlotte’s relationship with her family. In fact, it’s familial issues that are at the center of her problems—Charlotte is constantly striving to please her father, a newly published author garnering massive critical acclaim for his smutty novel; trying to be more like her mother, a literature professor; and comparing herself to her little brother who is a boy genius. In an effort to better herself, Charlotte feels that she needs to befriend people who will make her better: enter Amanda, the confident, daring, manipulative frenemy and Neal, the perfect, gorgeous, but entirely selfish guy. Charlotte is immediately taken with both of them and works to get close to them; as the self-proclaimed older version of Charlotte, I immediately hated them both with a burning, fiery passion and labeled them both as bad news.

But Charlotte did not label them as bad news. [The high school version of me wouldn’t have either.] She wants so badly to be a part of their group that she puts herself in terrible situations, lets people take advantage of her, and continues to feel horrible about herself. In fact, she’s so obsessed with impressing Amanda and Neal, that she is blind to the incredible guy who is so into her he can hardly breathe. I wanted to shake her. But I could not.

Overall, Girl Wonderis a classic case of girl-gets-in-over-her-head. Charlotte’s life has to completely unravel for her to figure out how to put the pieces back together in an order that is right for her. To be entirely honest, if I hadn’t felt so close to the character, I probably wouldn’t have been as invested in this book—it’s a fairly typical coming-of-age story. However, it’s an accurate portrayal of not only teenagers getting in over their heads, but of the many factors weighing on them—peer pressure to have sex and experiment with drugs, familial pressure to get into the “right” college, and learning how to handle situations that there is no way to control. Debut author Alexa Martin does a great job of showcasing just how hard it is to grow up. If only it was that easy to actually grow up.

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