Blondes with both style and substance are rare in teen lit aimed at girls – often enough, it’s the shallower worlds of Gossip Girl that prevail. Looking for something better? Try this trio.
Me and the Blondes
Audience: ages 13 and up – mostly girls
The Blondes are, well, you know these girls – they are perfect. Pretty, popular, and seemingly without troubles. They are everything Sophia wants to be, instead of her short, ethnic, new-girl, secret-laden self. When the weighty secret of her father’s incarceration has her starting yet another new school, Sophia has a two-pronged plan. 1) pretend her dad is dead. 2) find the Blondes, and get in with them.
Mostly, that works out perfectly, better than she expected, despite her hilariously embarrassing and over-the-top mother and aunties, a clutch of bigger-than-life Eastern European women who love her enormously, but have no boundaries (they also make me howl out loud, they are so funny). The best part, though, is discovering that the Blondes are not exactly what she thinks – they have their own secrets, insecurities, and imperfections, too, and it only makes them better and more understanding friends. In the end, more is worked out here than Sophia’s wildest dreams.
This lifts friendship and high school romance well past your average chicklit – it was even a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Awards back in 2006, a a really wonderful read that carries just the kind of positive messages we need more of, without sacrificing a fantastic sense of humour.
Better Than Blonde
Sophie and her Blondes are back with more laughs, more romantic drama, and more secrets to be kept and shared. But underlying all of this is the release of Sophie’s dad from prison. He has been exonerated, but adjustment to home life is tricky with alcohol problems and no job in sight, and Sophie finds herself worrying and keeping secrets as much as ever.
Her best friends are very much there for her, and her for them, as they all work through some big things, and the beehived aunties provide comic relief and a big wedding for comic relief, but this is nearly all backdrop to the news that Luke is as into Sophie as she is into him.
The book ends on a bombshell that I just can’t give away, leading right into the final book of the series, just released this week:
Everything is exploding around Sophie in this final installment of the Blondes books. Luke’s bombshell puts him out of reach – if she stays true to who she wants to be, and it’s tempting not to. Her papa struggles to get sober, but he’s not coming home, either. Her friends have new and more complicated secrets to lay on her. The new assistant coach to her basketball team seems to hate her. Will things ever come back around to normal?
Luckily, Sophie’s friends and family surround and support her, and she faces some truths that are both uncomfortable and reassuring, so by the end, it seems that things are going to be okay. Not perfect, but alright. I love that the ending is not all sunshine and roses, but a more realistic blend of highs and lows that bring Sophie to acceptance and feeling safe.
To be honest, while I liked the ending, I’m still a little sad to see this series come to a close, because Sophie, her friends, and mostly, her family are a boatload of great characters. The Blondes are more three-dimensional than they might have been, and while some of the aunties can be caricatures at times, they are hilarious, and her rendering of their accents on paper is pitch-perfect – I can hear them as I read. These are a great reminder of the power of having firm friends and loving relatives in your life, as well as being a fun ride.