Sunday, August 14, 2005

Book: What Every Girl (Except Me) Knows
Author: Nora Raleigh Baskin
Published: 2001

Twelve-year-old Gabby doesn't get this whole "woman" thing. How is she supposed to know what it's all about? She hasn't had a mother since she was three. She does the best she can, keeping a list of all the things that are apparently necessary to being female, as best she can tell. These include: drinking gelatin to keep your nails strong, how to make veal scallopini, and putting lotion on your elbows. But she has the haunting feeling that's not all there is to it.

Then she meets Taylor Such, the new girl at school. As they become best friends, Gabby slowly learns that even girls with moms aren't too sure what they're doing on the best of days. Along with this knowledge, she gets the courage to confront the actual events surrounding her mother's death.

Baskin has a gift for mingling silly and significant with ease and without fear. Taylor and Gabby ring true as twelve-year-old best friends, with goofy in-jokes and believable rough spots, and Gabby's relationship with her brother Ian is also realistic--neither too close nor too antagonistic, but the blend of the two that exists between just about any siblings. There are some plot threads that seem to get lost, but Baskin thankfully avoids the sweeping happy ending in which all problems are miraculously fixed. Gabby remains somewhat uncertain about womanhood, but she's a little more comfortable with that uncertainty now.

Overall, this is a great, funny book for girls and women, with or without mothers. If you're twelve, this will seem like your life. If you passed that age a long time ago, reading this book will make you laugh and be grateful you're never going to be there again.

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