Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Take Three Girls by Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell, and Fiona Wood

In Take Three Girls by Crowley, Howell, and Wood, Ady, Kate, and Clem all attend the same boarding school, St. Hilda's in Melbourne, Australia. But, they each have their own circles of friendship and unique struggles. 

Ady's parents fight constantly. Her father is an alcoholic and drug addict whose addiction has meant that he can no longer find a job. They are struggling to stay afloat. Ady's house is in a pretty posh neighborhood and Kate and Clem are not in her circle of friends. In fact, sometimes Ady's friends go out of their way to snub the others. Ady has a boyfriend who is handsome but she's not even sure she has all that much interest in him. She may even be dating him just because everyone else thinks he's hot. What will happen with Ady's parents? Should she keep dating Rupert or tell him the truth and let him go?

Kate is from the country and her parents are working hard on the farm to pay for her schooling. They expect her to get a scholarship for the remaining two years and eventually go to medical school. But, since Kate saw a celloist perform in a unique way, she has become obsessed with combining her computer and musical skills and her new goal is to win a scholarship to a cello workshop in Iceland. She is cheered on by her platonic friend back home, Ben. But, a boy named Oliver keeps annoying her and trying to tell her how to improve. Meanwhile, she is starting to cut classes and miss tutoring sessions to go to a club where she can hear the music she loves. Should Kate go with her heart and choose the musical path or go for the scholarship to save her parents the hardship?

Clem is a swimmer but she broke her wrist and during her time off from swimming she gained weight. She also has become besotted with Stu, the slightly older (19 to her 16) guy she ran into when she broke her wrist. Now her wrist has healed but she is humiliated by the tightness of her new uniform and has begun skipping swim practice. Clem's fraternal twin sister, Iris, is Kate's roommate. Clem and Iris are not getting along at all since their parents moved to Singapore and Clem chose not to room with Iris. When Stu drops hints that he wants to sleep with Clem, will she go along with it? What if she's decided swimming competitively is no longer for her? What's next? Will she and Iris ever work things out?

All three girls are sophomores who are thrown together for wellness classes after a website called PSST, in which girls are singled out for various attributes in gossipy, embarrassing, misogynistic, and very graphically nasty lists causes the school to come up with wellness class as a plan to help them deal with the gossip mill and its painful effects. And, at some point all become targets of PSST. When Ady, Kate, and Clem are grouped together as a friendship trio by thumb size (seriously) they are expected to spend time together to expand their horizons and break free from their usual social circles. None is interested, at first. But, as they let their guards down and begin hanging out with each other, they find an unexpected bond. 

Recommended - The wellness bits are a little bit odd and I had so much trouble keeping the three girls straight, at first, that I restarted Take Three Girls and took notes, which I never had to refer back to, once written. But, once they did the thumb matching and started hanging out together, it was clear that a connection was going to develop and I absolutely loved seeing their friendship grow. That was one of my favorite things about Take Three Girls. I also loved the realness of it: the things they worried about (boys, school, sex), the temptation to sneak away through the "portal" — a door in the dormitory that wouldn't close all the way — and the way they were learning about their own needs and desires and hopes for the future. It all felt very familiar in a distant way and I think teenage girls will especially relate. There's also a great deal of emphasis on misogyny and how that effects women of all ages, which any female at all can relate to. 

I talked about this book with my youngest son and he noted that the concept of the wellness class sounded like just the kind of lame reaction school administrators would have to a genuine bullying problem. I won't spill how the real problem is solved but they do end up getting something out of the wellness classes. It just isn't the solution to the bullying site. That's taken care of in a way that's very satisfying. 

My thanks to Sterling Teen for the review copy of Take Three Girls!

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