Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Girlwood by Claire Dean

Today, I'm pleased to present the first review from Marlies, our newest contributor. Enjoy!

Girlwood by Claire Dean
Age Range:
Young Adult
Hardcover: 256 pages
Houghton Mifflin (May 19, 2008)

Last spring, I had a plastic thumb. When my neighbors were asleep, I’d sneak outside and poke plastic stems into my so-called garden. I couldn’t name more than ten flowers and far fewer trees, and I certainly didn’t know that Fireweed is the first plant to grow back in burned areas. But that was all before I read Girlwood, by Claire Dean.

So is Girlwood a boring book about plants? Absolutely not. It’s a story that speaks to the hearts and minds of girls 12 and up and shows them that life can be filled with wonder and magic if they have the courage to hold onto hope. Polly, the main character, must believe that she can help her runaway sister survive in the Idaho woods—in winter, with wolves, and bulldozers. She gets her strength from her beloved grandmother, Baba, who shares the “secrets” of the woods that have actually been known for thousands of years.

All of the characters in the book are complex and quirky, and the writer’s voice is strong and intuitive. For example, here’s how the book opens:

“The first and last kiss Polly received from her sister was as contrary as Bree herself. Lightweight but intense, a kiss that was supposed to impart some deep meaning but offer zero affection, a kiss that was retracted nearly before it began.”

Girlwood will be released May 19, and in anticipation, I recommend visiting the author’s website. On it, she talks about the book and its themes and shares one piece of wisdom: “Only joy works. Don’t stop until you’ve found yours.”

This book spoke to me. I know I won’t stab plastic convenience into the ground where wondrous nature belongs. And I bet, when faced with trouble, adolescents and young adults who read the book will remember Polly and find new ways to choose hope over self-doubt and fear.


  1. I received an early copy of this book and love it too! It was nice to read a hopeful novel, not something dark and grim like so many books for teens out there. I really liked the little pieces at the beginning of each chapter about the folklore and magical qualities of each plant. And the storylines of each of the girls, and how they got stronger.

  2. Ann, thanks for writing! I, too, loved the descriptions of certain plants (their medicinal uses and lore) at the beginning of each chapter. I liked how the plants foreshadowed what would happen to the characters. It really felt like the author put a lot of effort into entertaining and educating us.