Fagerholm, Monika The American Girl
Other Press 2009 507p 15.75 978-159051-304-0 hs/adult
Told from varying viewpoints and times, the disappearance of an American girl in Finland possibly caused the deaths of others. A new generation of girls seek to unravel the complex relationships in the community and the deaths. For mature grades 10+.
An American girl goes to visit a relative in Finland. She becomes romantically involved with at least one boy in the community and suddenly disappears. Rumor has it she died in the marsh. Another death and a boy’s muteness are related to her death. A generation later, two young girls decide to delve into the mystery of the American girl. One of the young girls, Sandra, lives in a house “in the darker part of the wood”. She is neglected by her traveling parents and lives in a most unusual house. She spies on the hunting parties and sexually free lifestyle of her father. The lack of a mother present in her life causes her to reach out to her father’s girlfriends for advice. Doris, abused by her mother, befriends Sandra and the two invent games and role play the lives of adults. Their sexual experimentation mimics that of the adults in their lives. Doris ultimately kills herself while Sandra eventually moves to America. Through much of the novel, the writing style floats between viewpoints and times and the reader feels like there are gossamer layers precluding a clear understanding of what actually happened to the American girl and Sandra’s mother. As the novel ends, another girl from the next generation is set to replay the mystery of the American girl. A sequel will follow. For mature high schoolers who want a literary novel instead of a quick read.
The teenage characters may draw in high school readers who are looking for a literary read instead of a “beach read”. This novel has it all: reality, fantasy, and mystery. Determining what really happened is the reader’s responsibility. For mature readers. McNicol(3),Lois