________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 4 . . . . October 10, 2008


Girl From Mars.

Tamara Bach. Translated by Shelley Tanaka.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2008.
180 pp., pbk. & hc., $12.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-0-88899-725-8 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-88899-724-1 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Teen age girles.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Rachel Steen.

**½ /4


The Chip Man is happy to make a little money at the end of the day, and I spend the rest of my money on the food, but I don’t give a shit. I’m happy that I have a mouth I can open and stuff all this delicious food into. That I have teeth that chew and a nice chip man who really puts mustard on the fries. And that I have a throat so I can wash it all down with cola , and a stomach to hold it all. It’s fun to eat. It’s fun to watch Laura eating.

When we’ve finished, the chip man sticks two Jagermeisters in front of us. “Here girls, these will warm you up.” And we say thank you politely, like good little girls. Laura starts giggling again, and the street sweeper grins and takes a sip of his beer. I suddenly burst out laughing and start singing again. Then we take each other’s hands again, just like little girls.

We keep walking, and then Laura suddenly stops and takes my face in her hands and presses her mouth against mine, very softly, very lightly. It lasts forever and for no time at all.

Fifteen-year-old Miriam has lived in the same small little town her whole life. She’s always gone to school with the same kids who know everything about her, and now that she’s in high school, she’s bored to death and anxious for something to happen. Then she meets Laura. A wild and totally different girl from her usual friends, and pretty soon their friendship turns into something totally unexpected, complicating everything around her.

     Translated from the original German by Shelley Tanaka, debut author Tamara Bach has created an atmospheric and easily relatable novel for teens. Miriam is an average teen. She fights constantly with her mother, feels stifled by her life, and is looking for an adventure. Not exactly a bad girl, she is constantly testing and pushing, hoping to ignite a spark in her dull existence. Teens who have grown up in a small community will particularly relate to Miriam, understanding and empathizing with her need to escape.

     Narrating the story in first person, the author has lent an authentic voice to her protagonist. Miriam is dry, to the point, and somewhat detached, providing commentary on her life as though it were a film. Bach’s sentences are short, and stark, and she does an excellent job of creating a genuinely barren atmosphere. There is hardly a sense that anything is happening or will happen, and, at times, this could make it difficult to hold the reader’s interest. A careful reader, however will be able to read between the lines in Miriam’s descriptions and predict what develops between her and Laura.

     Miriam is always looking on the other side of the fence, expecting the grass to be greener. Life must be better in a bigger town. Everything would be better if she were just a little bit older. If only her mother weren’t such a pain…Laura has come from somewhere else. She bring with her a glimpse of a different life, and Miriam is understandably drawn to her. During the time of her relationship, her narrative voice also changes. There is more embellishment, and more emotion, and the pace of the story quickens.

     Compared to other novels in this genre, Girl From Mars is certainly not the strongest, nor the most effective of its kind, but there is enough substance to it to help it find an audience.

Recommended with reservations.

Rachel Steen is the Elementary/YA selection manager at S&B Books in Mississauga, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.