My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Like Mandarin had me hooked by the end of the first page. There was so much to love, from Grace’s voice to how the setting came alive, and Kirsten Hubbard made it look so easy.
Grace felt so realistic to me. I felt like Hubbard perfectly captured the trapped feeling that Grace tries to shrug off for the entire book, and the dynamic between Grace and Mandarin that arises as a result of Grace’s desire to believe that her small town life can’t be it was very believable. Mandarin feels similarly trapped, although for different reasons than Grace, and I feel like the two girls need each other – Grace needs Mandarin’s fearlessness, and Mandarin needs Grace’s innocence, in order for each of them to break out of their shells. I feel like the exploration of these characters was the most compelling part of the book.
I also really loved how the setting was portrayed. I’ve been to Wyoming on multiple occasions, and I’ve always found it pretty, but it really came to life in Like Mandarin and took on a character of its own in ways that I’ve never noticed.
If you love books with strong characterization, exploration of relationships, and brilliantly portrayed settings, then you really need to read Like Mandarin. This book is definitely in my top ten for books I’ve read this year.