Girlhood by Cat Clarke

The Blurb On The Back:

I lost myself

when my sister died,

and these girls rebuilt me,

piece by piece.

I thought that nothing could

Ever come between us.

I thought I knew who I was …

Until the new girl showed up. 

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

17-year-old Harper goes to Duncraggan, a boarding school for rich kids.  Harper’s parents can only afford to send her there because her dad was part of a work syndicate that won £3 million on the lottery.  Such a win would normally be cause for celebration, but it came the day after Harper’s twin sister, Jenna, died from heart failure caused by anorexia.  Jenna was only 15 when she died and Harper’s been carrying the guilt ever since because she was the one who persuaded Jenna to join her in a post-Christmas diet.

Harper’s got 3 great friends at Duncraggan in roommate Rowan, head girl Lil and pianist Ama and she feels as if broadly she fits in.  Then a new student, Kirsty, arrives.  Kirsty knows what it’s like to deal with grief because her sister’s dead too and Harper begins to form a bond with her but how much does she really know about Kirsty and what will Kirsty do to keep Harper’s friendship?

Cat Clarke’s YA contemporary novel is a strong portrayal of female friendship and how intense it can get, I enjoyed the fact that sex, lesbianism and bisexuality is shown as no big deal and both Harper’s guilt and the devastating effect of anorexia are handled sensitively but Kirsty’s storyline really didn’t ring true for me (especially the denouement) and that served to turn what could have been a great read into a merely okay one.

I thoroughly enjoyed the friendships shown here – especially that between Rowan and Harper and how it deteriorates as it comes under pressure by Kirsty although its power does push Lil and Ama into the background.  Clarke is strong at showing the effect of grief on both Harper and her parents and I believed in the damage that Jenna’s death had caused them.  Rowan’s lesbianism and Harper’s bisexuality are also great to see and the diversity here is pretty good (although Rowan who’s south east Asian is better developed than Ama, who is black).  However Kirsty didn’t work for me – she’s too obvious – and the end of her story completely didn’t ring true given everything that she’d done.  A storyline involving Lil and a gardener also made me uncomfortable – it’s played as a romance when there’s an age discrepancy that doesn’t get explored.  Ultimately this book didn’t quite come good for me but I’d definitely check out Clarke’s other YA novels.

GIRLHOOD was released in the United Kingdom on 4th May 2017.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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