Sunday, March 8, 2015

And Both Were Young

And Both Were YoungAnd Both Were Young by Madeleine L'Engle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is one of L'Engle's earlier works, and does not have the science fiction/religious shadings of the Wrinkle in Time series or some of her later work. Nevertheless, it is a solid story, and should appeal to girls.

The story takes place in Switzerland, and a boarding school for girls. Philippa (aka "Flip") has recently lost her mother, and her artist father is being pursued by a rather nasty woman. (She reminded me of the gold-digger in the original "Parent Trap" movie!) Her father will be traveling, and this woman convinces him to put Flip in this school for the year.

Flip is also artistic, and rather shy. She also has a bad knee which makes her clumsy in sports. All of these attributes combine so as to make her one of the unpopular girls, and the target of many jokes. There are two bright spots, however: (1) on her first day at the school she meets a young man named Paul, who lives nearby, and they strike up a friendship; (2) the art teacher takes a liking to Flip and becomes something of a mentor to her.

The first part of the book mostly deals with Flip's interactions with the girls at school. For anyone who has felt like 'the outsider', these scenes will resonate. Because of her loneliness, she sneaks away every week to spend time with Paul. She also spends her time learning to ski, after the ski instructor told her she was hopeless. The art instructor, who is a very good skier (and we find out why at the end of the book), gives Flip the right sized skis and offers instruction. Flip has a goal to enter the school-wide competition later in the year.

There is a bit of a mystery around Paul, and this is slowly revealed, as he and Flip become closer friends. The budding romance is handled very realistically, and without schmaltz, which is refreshing.

I think if I had discovered this in junior high I would have loved it! Even reading it as an adult, I found myself rooting for Flip, and drawn into the mystery of Paul. Overall, an enjoyable couple of hours reading.

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