Wednesday, February 8, 2012

YA BOOK REVIEW: Dreams of Significant Girls by Cristina Garcia

Sometimes it’s not a good idea to set expectations too high for a book. I wasn’t going to review Dreams of Significant Girls by Cristina Garcia because I’m not sure that my reaction to it is entirely fair. But my reading/blogging has been a bit slack so I thought I should at least review some of what I've read. I loved The Lady Matador’s Hotel, a book that is not my typical reading fare but that is a superb piece of writing. When I saw Garcia was coming out with a YA novel, I got all excited. It received some wonderful reviews. It's set in the early 1970's, which is semi-historical, but in truth, for me, is more contemporary. And it was billed as being a friendship story, like Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I haven’t yet read Traveling Pants but it’s been on my TBR list for a long time.

Anyway, I pre-ordered the book, I was so eager to read it. The novel centers around three wealthy (exceedingly wealthy) teens who are shipped off to summer school in Switzerland for various family/social reasons. It alternates among their points of view. Vivien is a Jewish, Cuban-American, sweet, overweight girl who wants to be a chef. Shirin is an Iranian princess, mathematically minded, and a ultra-snob. Ingrid is a Canadian rebel, party-girl, daughter of a Nazi war-criminal. Despite their differences, they are thrown together, have some boarding school adventures, and unlikely friendships ensue.

The first time I picked up the book, I read a few chapters and stopped, unable to get into the story. I couldn’t connect with the characters or their problems. But a few months down the road, I decided to give it another try. I did discover spots of lovely writing and nice insights. It’s fairly quick reading once I made up my mind to follow through. Still, I never really did come to care about the characters. Their angst-filled trials and tribulations were in some respects same-old, same-old. The only reason these girls were story-worthy was because of their fantabulous wealth and Swiss boarding school setting. And that somehow made their larger-than-life escapades seems a bit off-putting to me. Still, whenever I have this type of reaction to contemporary YA, I wonder when I turned into such a grouchy old lady.

So my verdict is: while this book didn’t live up to my expectations, I’m not exactly sure what my expectations were. I still think Garcia is a wonderful writer and I’ll be reading more of her work in the future.

This is my first book read for the Mount TBR challenge hosted by My Reader’s Block.