Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mother Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Fredrick

I came across The Mother Daughter Book Club at a great blog called Welcome to my Tweendom.   
The Plot:  The story is about four girls during their first year of middle school.  As the school year begins, their moms have a “surprise” for them.  They are all part of a mother-daughter book club that will meet each month.  There is personal tension between some of the tweens in the group and between the mothers and daughters.  The girls are not thrilled to have to read an archaic and monstrously large book like Little Woman.  As a result, they are initially reluctant to be a part of their mothers’ “great” idea. 
The Characters:  Like the girls in Alcott’s famous novel, the four tweens are unique and diverse. 
Cassidy recently moved to town following the death of her father.  She is a sassy, tom-boy who loves to play hockey and hang out with the guys.  In contrast, her mother is a former super-model who wants to keep her daughter out of harm’s way and wishes she was more lady-like.  Cassidy is the most out-spoken of the group, but she is also fiercely loyal. 
Shy Emma longs to be a writer.  She has a secret crush on a popular boy that is revealed in an especially humiliating way.  Since her family is on a tight budget, she has to wear hand-me-downs.  Her crush and her clothes prompt much ridicule from the fab four (the mean girls in school).  Fortunately, she has a close-knit family to support her.   
Jess lives on a farm with two much younger brothers and her father.  Her mother recently left to live in New York to pursue an acting career.  Jess’ father is loving and supportive, but she yearns for her mother and is apprehensive about family life without her.  Her love and talent for singing lands her the lead role in the school musical which comes with much drama on and off stage!    
Finally, Megan seems to have it all:  looks, popularity, and talent.  At the outset, she is part of the fab four.  She has a self-centered and superficial attitude.  Slowly, she begins to rekindle and forge friendships with the girls in the book club.  Meg also begins to grow and mature, which results in her distancing herself from her formerly “fab” friends.   Her desire to foster and pursue her artistic talents is a source of tension with her mother who wants her to be an intellect. 
The Upside:  The novel does a great job conveying the diverse personalities of tweens and teens as well as their struggles with themselves, their peer groups, and within their families.  It shows mothers and daughters (and families) working together through life’s struggles.  Fortunately, all the struggles are age appropriate.  As my daughter and I talked about the book, we saw parts of her in the each girl and parts of me in the moms (all the positive ones, of course J ).
The Mother Daughter Book Club is well-written.  It uses a primarily linear style, but the point of view shifts frequently.  One girl will share her thoughts, feelings, and observations about what is going on in life.   In the next section, another girl’s perspective is picked up.  She may refer back to the previous incident briefly, but then the narrative moves forward with her thoughts and feelings on the current action.   The author does an excellent job defining each girl’s voice and character.
The Downside:  The familiar struggles of the girls are genuine and sincere.  I was slightly disappointed that the ending was a little too neatly wrapped up.  It wasn’t entirely perfect, but close to it.  The novel would have been more realistic to have at least one of the story lines open-ended (because problems are not neatly solved in one book or less) or end a bit unhappily (because situations often do). 
The Bottomline:  People ages 11 and up will enjoy this novel.  Even my reluctant reader (girl, age 13) is happily reading it which is always a joy to see  I highly recommended it for moms, daughters, and all book lovers. 
What to Read Next:   There are three additional novels in the series, Much Ado About Anne, Dear Pen Pal, and Pies and Prejudice. 

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