CM . . .
. Volume XVII Number 28 . . .March 25, 2011
Frogs & French Kisses.
New York, NY: Delacorte Press (Distributed in Canada by Random House), 2006.
275 pp., pbk., $10.99.
Grades 7-9 / Ages 12-15.
Review by Nicole Dalmer.
I look to my right and see Jewel Sanchez, Melissa Davis and Stephy Collins standing in a semicircle, all smirking at me. With their brown, red, and blond hair, they remind me of evil Charlie's Angels. They are all wearing brand-new trendy back-to-school outfits: tight jeans, designer spring coats, sunglasses perched on freshly highlighted hair. Even though I know that Melissa is the same height as Jewel, five foot six, she seems to tower over Jewel. The ego must add inches the way the camera adds pounds. Stephy's long blond pigtails are gone, and her short Tinker Bell do, along with her petite frame, makes her look like she's seven years old. A malicious seven-year-old, the kind who steals your candy.
The three of them were lucky enough to be London's chosen freshman four in the fashion show. They are therefore super A-list. Unfortunately, if their three pairs of eyes were laser beams, I would have disintegrated by now. I instantly look down at my shoes. I'll just walk away before they can attack me. Slowly, controlled. One step, two, three. Run, run, run!
Sarah Mlynowski, author of numerous chick-lit novels, offers another entertaining read in the second book in the "Magic in Manhattan" series, Frogs & French Kisses, an overall easy, yet satisfying read. I confess to now being hooked on this sweet and trendy series.
Though I did not have the opportunity to read the first book in the series (Bras & Broomsticks), the first chapter of Frogs & French Kisses was laced with ample clues, descriptions and explanations to quickly catch me up with the characters' motivations and past experiences. Rachel, a high school student in New York, has to balance the ups and downs of high school existence with her rather unusual home life. Unlike her younger sister, Miri, and her mother, Rachel is not a witch. Though a book about a teenage girl is nothing new, the added twist of one non-magical teen in a family of witches allows for a fresh take on this genre. Throughout this book, the reader joins Rachel as she navigates the usual confusions of high school life (social hierarchies, fashion, boys, friends and frenemies), all told with a hip vocabulary that teens are sure to enjoy and identify with. With the hopes of finally dating the boy she truly loves and raising enough money to save senior prom, Rachel tries to enlist the help of her sister in the creation of love potions and a variety of other spells that often create more trouble than either sister anticipated. On the other hand, Miri, an overachiever and do-gooder, becomes increasingly obsessed with using her magic to right all the wrongs of the world.
Part of the fun in reading this book is the magic infused throughout. As magic in literature isn't bound by any technical or assumed rules, one never tires of the inventive spell names or other witch-related terminology that Mlynowski has created. I found the rating scale describing the level of difficulty of spells (one to five 'broomers') and the name of 'the' spell book (A2: The Authorized and Absolute Reference Handbook to Astonishing Spells, Astounding Potions, and History of Witchcraft Since the Beginning of Time) to be examples of the author's lighthearted originality. That being said, perhaps what I appreciated most was the lack of an obstinate focus on magic, as is so often found in these types of novels. Instead, there was a focus on relationships forged, lost, and maintained, whether familial or with school friends. Another focus of the book was Miri's diligence in trying to assist humanitarian causes (ethical treatment of circus animals, providing educational materials to developing countries, etc.) which teens may find an interest in supporting.
The writing and pacing of this book seems to centre on fostering a sense of connectivity with the reader. Though a book about teenage girls and magic, and most definitely defined as belonging to the chick-lit genre, the read felt appreciably un-gimmicky. Because the book is written from Rachel's point of view, readers will undoubtedly come to identify with her and the many believable (magic aside) struggles she eventually conquers and the ensuing lessons learned. I was amused with the witty chapter titles and was impressed with the abundance of 'realistically teen' dialogue that was smoothly integrated and kept the plot moving along at a comfortable pace.
Overall, Mlynowski's Frogs & French Kisses is a calmingly pleasant, yet bewitching read that I truly enjoyed. As the book has been successfully crafted so as to meet the demands of the teenage female, I envision a great number of tweens and teens escaping, savouring and relaxing with this book (and series) in hand.
Nicole Dalmer is a first-year student in the MLIS program at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, AB.
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