Reflecting the Realities of a Young Reader | Review of “Dreams of Significant Girls” by Cristina García (2011) Simon & Schuster

Girls

Being a avid reader, I am often told by parents they have a hard time getting their teenagers to read. In many cases, the teenagers themselves state the books they are given to read don’t reflect their lives or have agendas in trying to form opinions and attitudes instead of trying to relate to them. While researching another project, I came across a book that I think should better fit the wants of young readers. Hence my mention here of  Dreams of Significant Girls by Cristina García.

Page 2-3 Vivien Wahl

Things didn’t go as well for my parents. Papi worked all the the time. He traveled to Africa to buy diamonds for his new import business. We hardly ever saw him. This made my mother very lonely. Whenever I wanted to hang out with friends after school, she made me feel so guilty that half the time I didn’t go. Late at night, I’d hear my parents arguing. Mom cried and accused Dad of abandoning her. She suspected that he was having an affair. He countered that maybe he didn’t want to come home to a depressed wife every night. So off I went to “safe Switzerland so they could sort things out.

I’d never been on a flight by myself before, much less one where you got to choose what you wanted to eat from a menu. I ordered everything that came with cream sauce and a crème brûlée for dessert. Then I settled in to read my volume of J. D. Salinger stories. I brought ten books with me, all fiction. The Swiss camp promised that I’d be exceedingly busy: three hours of French class in the morning, sports and activities in the afternoon (I chose horseback riding, water skiing, cooking and ceramics), with nightly activities on top of that. I packed a flashlight in case my only time to read was under the bedcovers. In third grade, I got glasses from reading in the dark. Every time my mother looked at me with my thick tortoiseshell glasses, she’d sigh, as if I’d been permanently disfigured.

García uses simple and frank language in this book, which appeals to younger readers. The story deals with three girls: Sharin, Ingrid and Vivien. All three are sent to a private summer camp in Switzerland where they become acquainted. The story is broken apart by giving each of the three a chance to narrate the story, giving a unique perspective to a situation through each of the girl’s eyes.

Page 12-13 Ingrid Baum

We couldn’t wait to get out of Canada – away from our town, away from our smothering German mother, and frankly, away from my bad reputation. Our town was like a fish bowl. When you weren’t swimming around inside it, fins ablaze and blowing bubbles, you were on the outside looking in, watching everyone else and making snide remarks. so when my little sister, Kathe, and I finally got on the plane in Toronto, I whooped and hollered so loud, the stewardess cam over and read me the riot act. I got lots of dirty looks from the other passengers too. Apparently, airplanes were a lot more like small towns than we knew.

The first thing I did after the plane hit top altitude was whip out my fake ID and order a double scotch. I looked a lot older than fifteen. When I was dressed up and wearing makeup, grown men hit on me all the time. My sister was thirteen but looked about ten. She’d deny it, of course, but there was no way she could’ve ordered a double scotch and gotten away with it. So I pours some of mine into her Coke when nobody was looking ans we both settled in to watch the movie.

García also has the characters deal with issues that many of today’s teens have difficulties dealing with. Desires, heritage, mental health, parental irresponsibility, and so forth and covered by each of the girls in detail. Showing each of the girls with their problems gives insight to any reader what a young person has to deal with in modern society and the possible solutions.

Page 110 Shirin Firouz

Not that Jan-Peter was conventionally handsome. He was tall and bony and his front teeth overlapped in a funny way. But his eyes, a soft gray, anchored everything into place. I was surprised by the sudden ferocity of my feelings for him. I had assumed that I was immune to the vicissitudes of romantic love, especially after with that degenerate last year. When my cousins in Tehran spoke of their exuberant admiration for this boy or that, I thought them fools.

That summer, I became the fool.

Ingrid was irritable for days, accusing Vivien and me of abandoning our friendship in the “tawdry pursuit of the opposite sex.” While she freely advised everyone else on how to handle boys, Ingrid was mum on the subject when it came to us. She would light a cigarette, blow smoke out the window, and haughtily pronounce: “You’ll just have to find out for yourselves, won’t you?”

Her attitude, in my opinion, was unwarranted. Vivien and I discussed it at length but we could not decide whether Ingrid was jealous (unlikely, since she could have had her pick of boys), concerned (also possible, given our inexperience), or hormonally imbalanced (this was Viven’s theory but I found it sexist and refused to subscribe to it).

One thing we could both agree on: It was decidedly unpleasant.

Dreams of Significant Girls by Cristina García is a interesting read that should appeal to younger readers. It deals with modern issues in a frank and open manner through it’s narrative that makes it an enlightening read.

Link to Cristina García’s website

Link to Simon & Schuster’s page for Dreams of Significant Girls

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