Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lucky Seven Book Review #1: THE GIRLS OF NO RETURN by Erin Saldin

I've been on a reading binge lately, and I've been lucky enough to have read seven excellent books that you definitely should bump to the top of your TBR list. (And five of them are from debut authors!) Here's a brief recommendation the first of the seven, and happy reading!


The Girls of No Return by Erin Saldin 
(Arthur A Levine, Feb. 2012)

Summary from Goodreads: Erin Saldin's The Girls of No Return is a lacerating young adult debut about girls, knives, and redemption. The Alice Marshall School, set within a glorious 2-million acre wilderness area, is a place where teenage girls are sent to escape their histories and themselves. Lida Wallace has tried to negate herself in every way possible. At Alice Marshall, she meets Elsa Boone, Jules, 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. Everyone has their secrets – the “Things” they try to protect; and when those come out, the knives do as well.

THE GIRLS OF NO RETURN is a highly compelling issue-esque book that isn't an "issue" book at all -- it's set at a school for troubled girls (who aren't quite troubled/criminal enough for juvie), so the problems are varied but not in-your-face, since most are kept secret or revealed in pieces.

All the characters, including the main character, Lida, are complex and imperfect and thoroughly believable, and Lida's POV/narration is so flawed and dense at times that I wanted to reach through the book and shake her -- which definitely means that Saldin did her job well. There are some scenes where the emotional manipulation going on is so pitch perfect I literally felt my insides twist up in disgust.

Though TGoNR isn't action-packed in the traditional sense, it's a deftly emotional pageturner. (Did I just use that phrase? Yeah, I did.) I never found myself bored of the story -- actually, I kept making excuses to pick it up again to read "just a little bit more." Without a doubt, TGoNR is a stellar contemporary debut. (And Erin's now an honorary FNC member!)

Further evidence: Two starred reviews, from Booklist ("this psychological mind-bender is raw, gripping, and deftly rolled out by a writer-to-watch") and Kirkus ("a smashing debut.")

Stay tuned for book two of the Lucky Seven --- Wendy Wunder's THE PROBABILITY OF MIRACLES!

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