Like Mandarin

Read the first chapter of Like Mandarin!

I want to be beautiful like you, I thought, as if Mandarin were listening.

I want apricot skin and Pocahontas hair and eyes the color of tea. I want to be confident and detached and effortlessly sensual, and if promiscuity is part of the package, I will gladly follow your lead. All I know is I’m so tired of being inside my body.

I would give anything to be like Mandarin.

It’s hard to find beauty in the badlands of Washokey, Wyoming. Fourteen-year-old Grace Carpenter knows it’s not her mother’s pageant obsessions, or the cowboy dances and pickup trucks adored by her small-town classmates. True beauty is wild girl Mandarin Ramey: seventeen, shameless and utterly carefree. Grace would give anything to be like Mandarin.

When the misfits are united for a project, they embark on an unlikely, explosive friendship, packed with nights spent skinny-dipping in the canal, liberating the town’s animal-head trophies, and constantly searching for someplace magic. Grace even plays along when Mandarin suggests they make a pact to run away together. Blame it on the crazy-making wildwinds that plague their badlands town.

But all too soon, Grace discovers Mandarin’s unique beauty hides a girl who’s troubled, broken and even dangerous. And no matter how hard Grace fights to keep the magic, even the best friendships can’t withstand betrayal.


A beautifully crafted, bittersweet story about an unlikely friendship that sets two very different people free.
~Melina Marchetta, author of the Printz Award winner Jellicoe Road

Hubbard uses beautifully evocative language, and the details of the badlands setting are perfectly realized. Even minor characters are complex and believable, but most compelling are Grace and Mandarin… This excellent novel is a must for high school collections.
~School Library Journal

Hubbard’s first novel is replete with lovely imagery, with the Wyoming landscape being perhaps the most nuanced of her characters… Grace’s struggle to reconcile her past and present selves, along with her recognition of Mandarin’s fragility, drives this lyrical coming-of-age story.
~Publishers Weekly

Grace is well drawn and engaging, and her intimate, introspective, frank, and droll narrative zeros in on top teen concerns, from self-esteem and family complexities to peer pressure, loyalty, and fitting in. YAs will appreciate this sensitive portrayal of the ambiguities of relationships and the challenges of growing up.

With a flair for metaphors and character description, Hubbard’s writing exposes the deep emotions and conflicts that have rippled through most of Grace and Mandarin’s lives. These small-town girls could be found anywhere.

Hubbard’s lyrical prose turns the Wyoming landscape into a compelling character in its own right, and readers with their own wanderlust will find in Grace a forceful echo of their restlessness.
~The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

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