27 December 2011

(ARC) YA Book Review: The Girls of No Return by Erin Saldin

Release Date: 1 February 2012
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Format: ARC
Source: Around the World ARC Tours

Goodreads description:
The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area stretches across two million acres in northern Idaho. In its heart sits the Alice Marshall School, where fifty teenage girls come to escape their histories and themselves. Lida Wallace has tried to negate herself in every way possible. At Alice Marshall, she meets Elsa Boone, a fierce native Idahoan; Jules, who seems too healthy to belong at the school; and Gia Longchamps, whose glamour entrances the entire camp. As the girls prepare for a wilderness trek, Lida is both thrilled and terrified to be chosen as Gia's friend. But everyone has their secrets--their "Things" they try to protect; and when those come out, the knives do as well.
My Thoughts...

When Kirkus gives a book a starred review, I tend to sit up and take notice because anyone who follows Kirkus reviews knows that they tend to be a bit...harsh. The Girls of No Return received a coveted Kirkus star and I'm, well, for a good portion of the book I wasn't sure I agreed with that assessment.  While I enjoyed the story and eventually found myself fully engaged, it took awhile for me to really get into the story and at the beginning I found myself dragging my heels a bit to pick it up each night.  That being said, there really was a lot that I enjoyed about this book and the last quarter of the book was phenomenal.
Parents are too easily frightened by the world their children live in. We have to protect them from harm, keep them safe as long as we can, no matter how we feel about them. It's our duty.  I didn't know this going in, but I do now.
-p36, ARC
Lida is a very interesting character from page one.  Ms. Saldin does a really fantastic job showing us her journey without revealing too much along the way. The reader is strung along with glimpses of what's going on in Lida's head and in her life.  The "Epilogue" sections that pop up every so often allude to a BIG event that we haven't experienced yet as the reader. I really enjoyed what these sections added to the story--they added an element of and a reminder that the story we're reading is really a personal reflection of what happened to Lida at Alice Marshall.
That's the thing about secrets. Sometimes you have to keep the sharpest things hidden.
-p86, ARC
The girls that Lida meets at Alice Marshall are equally intriguing. Boone, Gia, Jules...they each play an interesting role in the story. From the beginning, I felt like Jules was someone worth knowing and I found myself wishing that Lida would accept her friendship and open up.  Boone was the "bad girl" that you couldn't help but liking.  She was very real and unafraid to be herself.  She was definitely tough, but I felt like she was willing to help Lida learn to open up and be herself.  It was upsetting that Lida couldn't see that.  And then there's Gia.  Gia is difficult to trust (as the reader) from the beginning.  She's too beautiful and too seemingly "put together" to be showing us who she really is.  Lida clearly takes a bit of a romantic interest in her, but Gia isn't willing to return the friendship in the same way. She seems to be someone looking to validate parts of herself through Lida (and others).
Sometimes the line between love and desperation is damn thin. ... You just have to hope you don't have a knife in your hand when you figure it out.
-p343, ARC
In the end, this book was on a bit of a "sliding scale" for me.  When I first started, I had so much trouble getting into it that I was convinced that this was going to be a three star book.  As I started to get into the story and the personalities, I felt that it had redeemed itself into a solid four star book.  But the end--the end was a 5-star wrap-up that was emotionally satisfying without being TOO cheesy.  It was a perfect blend of redemption without getting rid of the "mess."  So, there you have it, I'll give this one a solid four.  Give it a try and be sure to stick around through the beginning if you're having trouble.  This one is DEFINITELY worth your time.  It's descriptive, highly visual writing will potentially lose some readers, but the personalities of its characters and their paths toward redemption are worth immersing yourself in. For now, I'll leave you with this, something I consider the unifying theme in this novel...
Forgiveness is a work in progress.
-p344, ARC


Giselle said...

Oh this sounds really neat. I had the same thing happen lately where the start of the book was just Meh but the second half was awesome. It's a nice surprise!

Xpresso Reads

Danny Bookworm said...

OoOOOoO I looove your new layout, sooo pretty!!! And please apologize if you have it already some time, but I was in holidays for nearly 4 weeks. 

Anyways, the book sounds great and I will definitely watch out for it! 

Heidi said...

Hey Girl! Missed you! Hope you had a wonderful holiday. This book intrigues me. What about the Idaho setting? As a born and raised Idaho girl I am interested.

Jessi said...

It was a nice surprise! Made me really glad that I didn't decide to give up on the book at the beginning and move on to something else. :)

Jessi said...

Hey Danny! Thanks! It's still a pretty darn new layout (at least it feels like it the way I'm still constant gawking at it)! :)

Jessi said...

 Hey, chica! Hope you had a fab holiday as well! The setting itself, well, I'm not sure that I would identify it as evoking Idaho specifically, know what I mean? The majority of the descriptions definitely set it in a beautiful mountain wilderness but it felt like it could kind of be anywhere. :)

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