Natalie and I wanted to participate but we have Tip Tuesday tomorrow and a fantastic guest post on Wednesday, so we're bending the rules and putting ours up early. In an interesting twist of fate, our Mandarin stories are sort of similar. Feel free, however, to shield your eyes and come back Wednesday when all the fun is going down.
You can read the first chapter of LIKE MANDARIN here, which OMG, the writing! You know how I get about gorgeous writing. Definitely read that chapter. And in the meantime, here's the Goodreads description:
It's hard finding beauty in the badlands of Washokey, Wyoming, but 14-year-old Grace Carpenter knows it's not her mother's pageant obsessions, or the cowboy dances adored by her small-town classmates. True beauty is wild-girl Mandarin Ramey: 17, shameless and utterly carefree. Grace would give anything to be like Mandarin. When they're united for a project, they form an unlikely, explosive friendship, packed with nights spent skinny-dipping in the canal, liberating the town's animal-head trophies, and searching for someplace magic. Grace plays along when Mandarin suggests they run away together. Blame it on the crazy-making wildwinds plaguing their Badlands town. Because all too soon, Grace discovers Mandarin's unique beauty hides a girl who's troubled, broken, and even dangerous. And no matter how hard Grace fights to keep the magic, no friendship can withstand betrayal.
And here's our post!
I’m so excited to be a small part of the writer community supporting Kirsten Hubbard’s debut LIKE MANDARIN. My Mandarin? It wasn’t a person. It was a group. You know, THE GIRLS. The Popular Clique. They were everything I wasn’t—beautiful and thin. And they had lots of friends and all the cute guys were their boyfriends.
I remember watching them in the hallways during middle school and high school wishing I could be part of their group. But I wasn’t. I was overweight and terribly shy. I didn’t have many friends back then. I could count them on one hand. I have to say my high school years were some of the most miserable times of my life. In part, but not all, because of the group I couldn’t be a part of.
Thankfully though, I survived. And as soon as I moved away to college, I made friends and lost weight. I learned to be happy with myself as me and stopped wishing I was someone else. And you know one of the things that got me through my Mandarin times? Books. Just like they get me through some of the hard times now.
I was really awkward in junior high. Like, extremely. I wore my curly hair plastered to my head, hung out with kids who collected Pokémon cards, and handled my burgeoning attraction toward the opposite sex by collecting (stolen) pictures and discarded homework of the one I “loved” (and yeah, OK, I may have been called “stalker” by the popular kids).
By the time I started high school, I had learned to be subtle. About everything. If I was going to survive in a school with even more kids than junior high, invisibility was my best bet. But I didn’t plan on meeting Kimberly*, a girl who had a large birth mark on her neck resembling a burn scar and yet who stormed the halls with confidence, beauty, hilarity, and boys. My Mandarin. I would have given anything to be like her.
And here's the twist. I got my wish. Like Mandarin.
Kimberly took me under her wing and taught me how to fit in, to be confident, to wear my hair down and date boys. She also taught me how to ditch my best friends, get busted for truancy, and hate my parents. And what I learned on my own? She was a carefully presented version of that old, awkward me—insecure, jealous, desperate to be accepted—and I was better off being me. The one that surfaced during that friendship, better for it despite its toxicity, and would become the beautiful person I am today.
*name changed for privacy