Still There, Clare

by Yvonne Prinz
ISBN: 155192644X

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A Review of: Still There, Clare
by Tim McGrenere

I am not part of the target audience for this book. I cannot directly relate to a young woman's angst over the unpunctual development of her breasts; nor did I ever have a crush on my gym teacher. Still, I did enjoy reading Yvonne Prinz's first novel told from the point of view of 12-year-old Clare. She is a sassy outsider with a sharp tongue and, for me, an enjoyable guide to the perplexing mind of a female pre-teen.
Clare is on the cusp of womanhood as we enter her world. In the opening chapter she reveals that it is time for a few changes in her life, including saying goodbye to her long-time imaginary friend, Elsa. Elsa is the cool and worldly alter ego of the awkward and timid Clare. When Clare confronts Elsa that it is time for them to part ways-she can't be a teenager and still have an invisible buddy-Elsa flies off to "summer in Paris." Of course, Clare can't cut off Elsa cold turkey and so much of the narrative is in the form of "letters" to Elsa, in which Clare expounds on her troubles: Aunt Rusty has started dating her beloved gym teacher, Mr. Bianchini; her only other friend, the geeky genius Paul, is being sent off to live with his grandparents on the other side of the continent because his alcoholic mother is going into detox for the summer; and, of course, the aforementioned delayed mammaries.
Many of the situations are bland or just conventional. Clare has a talent for running and she is inevitably placed in direct competition with the beautiful and popular Ginny Germain in a series of unconvincing track and field scenes. The novel's conclusion is predictable and overly sentimental: breasts arrive, Aunt Rusty is forgiven, and Elsa makes her final departure after being replaced by a non-imaginary friend for Clare. However, Prinz has devoted some rewarding effort to character. Paul is more than just a geek. Rusty is more than just the cool Aunt in the leather jacket. They are not the fully rounded characters of great literature, but they are substantially more than the sketchy caricatures that populate conventional teen fiction, and they, along with the snappy irony of Clare's narrative voice, give the story its many moments of genuine fun.

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