Thursday, September 26, 2013

Review: Dreams of Significant Girls by Cristina Garcia

Title: Dreams of Significant Girls
Author: Cristina Garcia
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release date: July 12th 2011
Pages: 256
Genre: Young Adult historical
Source: Bought
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Shirin is an Iranian princess; Ingrid, a German-Canadian eccentric; and Vivien, a Cuban-Jewish New Yorker culinary phenom. The three are roommates at a Swiss boarding school, where they spend their summers learning more than French and European culture. As the girls’ paths cross and merge—summers together, school years separate—they navigate social and cultural differences and learn the confusing and conflicting legacies of their families’ pasts. In the spirit of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Shirin, Ingrid, and Vivien grow together even when they are apart, forming unbreakable bonds along the way.
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Dreams of Significant Girls just has too much going on. The book's 250 pages just aren't enough to explore the stories of three narrators over the course of three years. There were a lot of interesting storylines, but nothing gets explored in enough depth, making Dreams of Significant Girls a very underwhelming read for me.

I liked the idea of these characters, but the characterization leaves much to be desired. Ingrid seemed like an intriguing character, but she turned out to be nothing more than the bad-girl stereotype; she drinks, smokes, and sleeps around, but that's it, and the story behind that is never really explored. Especially since the book is only set in the summers, we don't know a lot about Ingrid's family or background or what makes her act the way she does. Vivian is an okay character, I guess, but kind of boring - I don't really remember anything about her other than the fact that she likes to cook. Shirin started out as the most frustrating character because she acts like a spoiled brat most of the time. Towards the middle, there is a storyline that could have made her a fascinating character, but instead of exploring that issue, a new issue is introduced at the end and neither one of them is really explored. The characterization of all three girls uses more telling than showing, making them somewhat cliched and underdeveloped main characters.

Before reading the novel, I thought Dreams of Significant Girls was contemporary, but it's actually set in the 70s. I thought the historical aspect would be something I would enjoy, but it's done in a really strange and unrealistic way. The telling-instead-of-showing thing is part of the problem here, too: instead of showing us the ways of the time the author has the characters say something like "It's the 70s. We can do whatever we want," which I find unrealistic and strange. World War II plays a role in the novel, too, but I thought the storyline concerning the parents was just kind of pointless because it's not fully explored either; we don't see its effect on the main characters, and it's just kind of added on to the rest of the story.

Every part of this novel felt underdeveloped to me. There are way too many things going on, which means that we didn't get to know the characters well enough and no storyline is explored in enough depth. That made Dreams of Significant Girls an underwhelming read for me.


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