Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Audiobook Review: The Secret Language of Girls

The Secret Language of Girls by Frances O'Roark Dowell, narrated by Michele Santopietro.  Grades 4-6.  Random House/Listening Library, 2004.  3 hours, 52 minutes (4 discs).  Reviewed from library copy. 
Kate and Marilyn have been best friends since they were little kids, but now they're starting 6th grade and things are changing.  Kate wonders when Marilyn started getting so interested in makeup and cheerleading.  Marilyn wonders when Kate will start to grow up.  Told in vignettes throughout their sixth grade year, The Secret Language of Girls alternates points of view between Kate and Marilyn (with a little bit of Marilyn's brother Petey thrown in for good measure).

In 2009, I read The Kind of Friends We Used to Be, which is actually the sequel to The Secret Language of Girls.  I loved Friends and I'm kicking myself for waiting so long to pick up this book.  If Friends is "a story about girls beginning to become the people they want to become", then The Secret Language of Girls is a story about girls starting to realize that things can't stay they same, that they can't stay the same, even if they want to.

This is a coming-of-age story reminiscent of the Judy Blume books I read and loved as a tween.  These are the kind of stories that will always be written because they're always needed by girls who are starting think about growing up.  The story is told alternately from both Kate's and Marilyn's points of view (with a little bit of Marilyn's younger brother Petey thrown in there, too).

One thing that stuck out to me about this book was the strength of the supporting characters.  As I listened to the story, I found myself wanting to know the story from Petey's point of view or from Flannery's point of view, and so on.  To me, that speaks to the development of even minor characters.  They're interesting enough that I wondered what the events would look like through their eyes.

The main characters of Kate and Marilyn are well-developed, too, and they're nice reflections of best friends who suddenly realize that they don't have as much in common as they thought.  I got a comment from a tween reader on my review of The Kind of Friends We Used to Be and she said that she felt that she was like Marilyn and her best friend was like Kate.  Certainly not all tweens will identify with either Marilyn or Kate, but I'm betting many will.

I listened to the audio recording, narrated by Michele Santopietro.  She has a strong, clear reading voice and though she does slightly different voices for the characters, hers is a narration that lets the story speak for itself.  She does the story justice by not over-voicing or over-acting.  It's a quiet kind of story and the simple narration really works for it.  Santopietro gives the characters just enough variation that you can tell them apart.

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