Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dreams of Signficant Girls

Vivian is a New Yorker, an aspiring chef of Cuban-Jewish descent; wild, "unhinged" Ingrid hails from Canada, and Shirin is a wealthy Iranian princess. The three girls meet at a Swiss boarding school in 1971 and return for two more summers filled with conflict, romance, and friendship. Related in the alternatiing first-person voices of the three young women, Cristina Garcia's DREAMS OF SIGNIFICANT GIRLS seems, at times, a teen version of a jet-setting potboiler by Judith Krantz or Jackie Collins; Shirin isn't just wealthy...she's so fabulously rich that her father springs for tuition for the other two girls, has their suite professionally decorated, and ships Arabian horses "via the Persian Gulf and the Arabian and Red Seas, then through the Suez Canal, across the Mediterranean, and up along the western coast of Italy to the French Riviera" just for the girls to ride during their month at summer school. Ingrid isn't just talented with a camera, but becomes a famous teenage photographer after shooting nude studies of her two BFFs. (Ingrid's sister, who is so unnecessary to the plot that she need never have been introduced, turns out to be a tennis prodigy.) Vivian's not just a good cook...she ends up competing in an international culinary competition. The sex scenes -- here is seventeen-year-old Ingrid describing her fifty-something art dealer lover -- are right out of Krantz as well: "We spent hours in bed. We took baths together. We rubbed scented lotions all over each other. We fed each other fruit and cheese, stark naked." Although the characters of the girls are well-differentiated, in both behavior and first-person narrative voice, they are pretty much done in by a plot forced to live up to the novel's lofty title. Every conflict they face is "significant" and oversized -- suicide, abortion, homosexuality -- while some of the plot twists hinge on coincidences that wouldn't make it out of a Writing 101 class. One, involving a connection between Vivian's and Ingrid's fathers, even has Ingrid saying, "What were the odds of this? Like one in seventeen trillion?" She later comments, "If I wrote this in a book, no one would believe me." She's right.

PRINTZ-WORTHY: No way. Unless the judges are swayed by the author's pedigree (which includes a National Book Award nomination for her adult novel DREAMING IN CUBAN) this book won't merit any "significant" attention from the Printz committee.

What do YOU think?

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Printz Picks. We tagged you in our post. Thanks for a great blog. http://oopswrongcookie.blogspot.com/2011/10/lovely-surprise-part-2.html