Hyacinth Girls

“When a school principal explains that your girl has thrown ink in someone’s face, there are probably certain things that you’re not supposed to do. You’re not supposed to break down in tears, divulging your personal problems. You shouldn’t act like the mother of a criminal, angrily insisting, “She could not have done this!” And you probably shouldn’t get so defensive that you ask what the other student did to provoke her. But when it happened to me, all my shoulds went right out the window…

Callie and I shared a seven-hundred-square-foot apartment. We shared meals and gossip and jokes, and after her latest growth spurt, we’d even started sharing shoes…”But Callie’s so gentle,” I , and then I started giving examples. Spiders behind the toilet, beetles inside the screen door, half-dead flies drowsing on the windowsill.  Callie scooped each of them up and shuffled to the front door, where she released their bodies in the open air…

“It’s our policy to met with parents before taking disciplinary action,” Mrs. Jameson told me.

And that was when she said it. Bully. Bullying.”  – Lauren Frankel

Bullying is a topic that cannot be ignored in contemporary society. Bullies come in all shapes and sizes, and bullying takes all forms. Hyacinth Girls deftly addresses the complexity of bullying and its evolving nature with technology. Rebecca, a single dental hygenist is raising her best friend’s daughter, thirteen-year-old Callie.  Callie is sweet, pretty, and popular, and when Rebecca is notified by the middle school principal that Callie was bullying a classmate, Robyn, she is horrified.  She realizes that there must be some mistake, and after talking with Callie and her two best friends, she realizes that the whole situation is a misunderstanding.  After meeting with the principal, Rebecca shares all of this, then is informed that other students came forward and cleared Callie’s name.  Rebecca is still shaken, though, when Robyn’s mother calls and accuses Callie of ruining her daughter’s life.

As Rebecca tries to put the pieces together and move on, she watches Callie change. Watching Callie suffer through the most difficult of adolescent times brings up her own memories of a childhood spent with Callie’s mother, and causes her to question what she knows about the girl she is raising.

This book is creatively written, interspersing notes from Callie to Rebecca and flashbacks from Rebecca’s childhood.  Additionally, this book is set apart not only because of the powerful voice and the realistic plot, but because Callie also tells her story throughout.  Callie shares how events really unfolded and the secrets she kept from those who thought they knew her best.

This book is compelling and engaging.  It is filled with twists and turns and unfolds naturally. Callie and Rebecca could be your next door neighbor or a close friend. Frankel is fantastic at creating a beautiful mystery out of things that could otherwise seem too ordinary to merit extraordinary story telling.  This is a must read for anyone who knows any adolescents or remembers the challenges of being one.

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