Kirsten Hubbard's beautiful, newly released debut novel Like Mandarin if you participate over here.
Wow. I don't think I've ever made that many hyperlinks in one sentence before.
More about Like Mandarin, for the curious:
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.
Because Like Mandarin is about yearning to be like somebody else, today we're writing about who we would have given anything to be like growing up.
this girl in my drama class in high school. I'm going to call her Gabriella, although that wasn't her name. But like Gabriella, her name was kind of theatrical.
Gabriella was totally my Mandarin.
Gabriella wasn't one of those skinny stick figure girls. She was round and curvy. She had a kind of beauty that was all her own. She had an epic laugh. And when she stepped onstage, even if it was in a crummy low budget school production and the lights weren't working properly, even if she was surrounded by stage fright stricken school kids saying every line in a monotone, she glowed. If you were in the audience, it was impossible to take your eyes off her. Her comic timing was perfect. No one made an audience laugh like Gabriella. Sometimes it seemed like she could imitate every voice in the world and turn it into her own.
Needless to say, even in close proximity, she completely ignored me. Not that I ever really tried to get her attention in the first place. I never saw myself as worthy. In high school, there are a few talents that will give you status. Gabriella's was one of them. Gabriella never really tried to be 'cool'. She never needed to. She spent her weekends partying hard and had new stories about drunken crazy antics almost every Monday. At lunchtimes she joined an elite crowd who disappeared off to a certain clump of trees and came back reeking of smoke. With anyone else, this would have been gross. With Gabriella, it somehow added to her mystique. Sometimes after a long weekend of drama rehearsals I used to find myself wishing I was a smoker, just so I could have some of that mysteriousness of my own.
I was the complete opposite of Gabriella. I was so shy it hurt. I didn't like cigarette smoke, and I wasn't brave enough for partying, but I would have given anything to have her talent, and even more than that, her confidence. Even just for a day. I would have loved to float through high school on a cloud of charisma, rather than scuttling between classes trying to avoid people's eyes.
Looking back on all this, I want to go find my high school self and give her a hug, and tell her everything will be ok in the end.
Who did you most want to be like?