Saturday, January 28, 2012

Book Review: The Girls of No Return, by Erin Saldin

The Girls of No Return is one of those books that sneaks up on you. It is very slow and deliberate, but very elegant.

Lida has had some problems. She is being contacted by someone from her past named Margaret, but she isn't ready to talk to her. She hasn't seen Margaret for two years, and it's apparent that something happened, involving Margaret, that Lida is seeing a therapist for. The therapist suggests that Lida write down what happened. And so she begins.

Lida is being dropped off at a school for troubled girls in the wilderness of Idaho. I thought the set up here was a bit slow, introducing the (beautiful) setting and the characters, but Saldin's writing is very lyrical.

The setting and characters are important. The hikes, the lake, and the camping trips are an important part of the Alice Marshall school and the story. Lida's nemisis is Boone. She's the bully who lives in Lida's cabin and has a "special" way of welcoming all the newcomers. Lida is a loner, never speaking much or trying to make friends until a new girl, Gia, arrives who Lida is attracted to. They begin a clandestine friendship, because Boone absolutely despises Gia. And, as Lida finds out, there's much more to Boone that what appears on the surface.

As we are getting to know these characters, who are diverse and wrought with problems and typical teen attitudes, we are wondering, "What is Lida's Thing?" Everyone else is wondering too, because she isn't sharing any of her past with her teachers or school mates during their "Circle Share" meetings. Margaret teaches the outdoor class, Lida's favorite, but she still isn't going to confide in her.

Saldin expertly reveals more of Lida's character bit by bit. And we also get to know a little about the other characters, but some still remain very mysterious. Since we only hear what Lida hears, just how much of what these girls share are lies?

The triangle here isn't a love triangle, but a friendship triangle between the three girls -- Lida, Gia, and Boone -- with Lida very much in the middle. There is a horrible occurrence at the culmination, but there's much to absorb along the way. And, the future is hopeful, at least for some of our characters. The strength of this book is in the telling -- the descriptive metaphors and the characters that burrow into your heart. The plot is a slow burn, but worth it.

Recommend this to teens (as well as adults) who like contemporaries, boarding school stories, problem kids, and beautiful prose.

Published by Arthur A. Levine, February 1, 2012
ARC obtained from the publisher for review
345 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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1 comment:

  1. You said, "...a slow burn, but worth it." That sounds really interesting.


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