Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Teen Review: Realistic Fiction

White Oleander
by Janet Fitch
446 pages
Realistic fiction
Mature readers

Reviewed by Lauren H., grade 11

White Oleander is about a girl named Astrid Magnussen and her poet mother, Ingrid Magnussen. Astrid was always a mere shadow to her mother; her daughter didn't seem to fit into Ingrid’s schedule of cocktail parties and poetry slams. Despite the fact that Astrid was ignored for most of her adolescent years, her mother made sure to instill the idea that the beauty they both shared was incomparable, that they were made from the beauty of the Norse gods themselves. When Ingrid is suddenly accused of murdering her ex-boyfriend, Astrid finds herself alone in foster care, far from a place she can call home. In a span of five years, Astrid goes to five different homes, each home containing a radically different woman than her mother. In each and every household, Astrid learns a new meaning of the words loss, gain, and--most importantly--beauty. Although Ingrid Magnussen is serving a life sentence, can she let her daughter be tainted by new ideas of beauty? Or will she annihilate those ideas faster than the poison of a white oleander flower can kill?

I have to say this book is so incredibly amazing and so well written that I didn’t want it to end. If you’re looking for a novel with a completely different writing style than you would see in common books, then I would highly recommend White Oleander. It has poetic and beautiful language that I found completely enchanting. At the end of this book I actually wanted to be friends with Astrid because she was written with such depth and detail I forgot that she was a fictional character. Janet Fitch is now added to my list of favorite writers.

I give this book a 5.

Editor's note: I love this book as well. It gives a clear, though disturbing, view of what it's like to go through (and survive) the foster care system. And they did a pretty great job with the movie made from the book. If you liked this book, you might also enjoy The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, another realistic fiction book for mature readers.

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