Girl to the Core, by Stacey Goldblatt

Stacey Goldblatt's Girl to the Core has the makings of a sweet, inspirational coming-of-age novel... cursed with a story-crippling flaw. Goldblatt's heroine is Molly O'Keefe, the only girl in a large, boisterous Irish-American family. Molly's a pushover, so when her boyfriend Trevor cheats on her she knows she'll need a distraction to keep herself from taking him back. Unexpectedly, she finds one in the Girl Corps, a Girl Scouts-like group that emphasizes thoughtfulness and self-reliance. When Molly gets roped into helping her nine-year-old neighbor with a Girl Corps walkathon, she glumly expects to spend the entire time obsessing over Trevor, but when she actually has fun she begins to wonder if even a jaded teenager like herself could learn something from Girl Corps's primary goal: helping girls be proud of who they are.

Girl to the Core shines when it focuses on Molly and the little Girl Corps members. (And I totally wish Girl Corps was a real organization, because it sounds awesome.) Molly's pining over Trevor is painful but realistic, and it easily could have carried the novel—for example, Molly could have forgiven Trevor at the beginning of the book, until her work with the Girl Corps shows her that she deserves better. However, Goldblatt chooses instead to hinge her plot climax on Molly's rocky relationship with Rhondi, the cranky, middle-aged Girl Corps leader. We're clearly supposed to view Rhondi as gruff but well-meaning, but the story never justifies that. Instead, Rhondi begins and remains a rude, judgmental idiot who takes five little girls on a risky hiking trip by herself. (Who does that? Has she never gone on a field trip before, ever?) The happy ending comes when Molly finally earns her approval*, but it's never clear why Molly should care, because, hello: Rhondi sucks. The whole thing seemed bizarre and unbelievable, and I spent the last quarter of the novel wishing that Goldblatt's editor had stepped in and insisted on a completely reworked ending.

*By going on an unplanned solo hike to find them, which, by the way, is ALSO STUPID.

Review based on publisher-provided copy.
Posted by: Julianka


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