In Like Mandarin, 14-year-old Grace Carpenter would give anything to be like Mandarin Ramey. Mandarin is seventeen, self-assured, irreverent and mysterious; the notorious wild girl of their small Wyoming town.
From Grace: Sure, maybe most of the attention Mandarin got was negative. But it wasn't the kind of disdainful brainfreak attention I got, when I got any at all. Hers was lust. And jealousy. Because even as they condemned her, every single girl wanted to be her.
But nobody more than me.
I want to be beautiful like you, I thought, as if Mandarin were listening.
I want apricot skin and Pocahontas hair and eyes the color of tea. I want to be confident and detached and effortlessly sensual, and if promiscuity is part of the package, I will gladly follow your lead. All I know is I'm so tired of being inside my body.
I would give anything to be like Mandarin.
Grace's fascination with Mandarin borders on obsession. When they're paired together for a project, their explosive friendship rocks Grace's world – which makes Mandarin's betrayal even more devastating.
So, in honor of LIKE MANDARIN, I've been asked to blog about who my Mandarin was. This has, of course, changed over the years.
When I was about ten, my American grandma introduced me and my siblings to free movies from the library. And thus began my obsession with THE PRINCESS BRIDE. Because I fell in love with Wesley, so I desperately longed to be Princess Buttercup.
These two still turn my insides into a wobbly, gooey mess. Wesley was so handsome, so perfect, and had such an irresistible voice. Princess Buttercup was a bit of a stupidnut, but she was beautiful and Wesley loved her. For a ten year old, that was enough.
But as I got way older, like a year later, Grandma checked out GONE WITH THE WIND. And this time, I fell in love with Ashley. I know, I was supposed to love Rhett Butler, but he's a grown woman type of man, you know. Ashley was all soft-spoken and sweet and whimpy-sexy, just perfect for a sixth grader. And Scarlett wanted him. Melanie Wilkes wanted him. So I wanted to be them.
Scarlett was stupidselfish, but she was strong and resilient. Melanie Wilkes was stupidgullible but she was the kindest, noblest woman ever. I wanted to be, like, their love child. And then marry Ashley. As I got older, I wised up and saw Rhett's appeal, but by then I'd moved on to Axl Rose.
And then, I fell in love and got married (not to Axl Rose), and one day my husband made a casual mention of Kate Beckinsale and my WTF radar kicked in. I was like, all sly and stuff: "You like brunettes, don't you." And his pupils dilated and his jaw tensed and he was like, "I love you and you're a brunette, so yes." And then I looked her up and understood. So, yeah. After that, I wanted to be like her, too. For obvious reasons.
But now, as much as I'd still love to be Kate Beckinsale, she doesn't exactly influence me. Like at all. Not like this person.
This is me with my Mom when I was about...two? We were near the old Humbolt Hotel in Playas, a beach not far from Guayaquil where I was born. My mom stood out like, well, a pasty white person in Ecuador. But she was so strong, you know? Having moved to Ecuador without knowing a lick of Spanish. And she was so determined to raise us kids right, all four of us, and would make us American donuts and pie to eat right along with our arroz con pollo. For our birthdays, she would make paper hats out of newspapers and always our favorite cakes. For me, it was cherry cheesecake.
It's from Mom I get my writing. When I was a kid, I used to sneak into her journals and couldn't believe that anyone I knew could write so beautifully, better than the stuff I read in books. Then when I wrote my first real book in sixth grade, HOW THE ELEPHANT CAME TO BE, she acted like it was the most perfect book she'd ever read, and has kept it to this day. She's the one who gets to read everything I write first, and she always makes me cry with how much she loves it. She makes me feel special, like I could do anything. And she's probably the nicest person in the world. Mom is beautiful like Princess Buttercup. Also strong and resilient, kind and noble--like the love child of Scarlett and Melanie. She's not brunette though, so that's good.
My big sister is brunette, though. But that's okay, because she's awesome. I want to be just like her too.
To this day, she keeps me from falling.
I would like to thank all of you who offered me such tremendous support in the last few days. I was blown away by this online community of writers and book people, friends and family. It was all so overwhelming, but exhilarating. I'm just so moved by it all. Inspired, really. I can't thank you enough. I promise, I'll post my agent story. Soon.
I also owe a special thank you to those of you who threw me my blog party yesterday. You guys have wormed your way into my heart. Thank you for being such amazing people. I look forward to each of your successes.
And to my agent, Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst Literary: thank you. Many times, thank you.