The Girls of No Return [Review]

reviewed by Sue B. Bello

The Girls Of No Return
Erin Saldin
New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2012
ISBN 978-0-545-31026-0 (hardcover)
352 pages, $17.99

The Girls Of No Return is Erin Saldin’s first novel which tells the story of the wilderness that exists within a young  girl named Lida and is told through her journal.  Lida has withdrawn into herself and further and further from those around her simply to survive.  The book is an irresistible and painful internal monologue told in Lida’s smart and witty yet cold voice.

As the novel inches along, the reader is given replayed snippets of a chilling childhood that set the stage for self-destruction. How does a small town Idaho teen become so bitterly lonely despite her doting father?  Chapter by chapter, her life line is craftily pieced together.  Lida’s years have been full of self-loathing, uncertainties, and devoid of friendship. She is estranged from herself and from the world around her.

In addition to revealing her childhood, Lida’s  journal also reveals her experiences at Alice Marshall School, a school for troubled female teens, in the River of No Return Wilderness area in northern Idaho.  The book moves full-circle until  Lida faces outright the life-altering consequences of her complicated friendship with two girls at the wilderness camp, Boone and Gia.  Boone is the toughest girl in camp while Gia is complicated and alluring. The two girls hate each other,  and Lida is caught in the middle and forced to make a choice which leads to the book’s climax.  Themes of trust, friendship and survival are explored in the wilderness setting.

Erin Saldin, in the acknowledgements, thanks her Mom and Dad for “settling in Idaho and forcing her to go to Girl Scout camp with Morgan Cole, whose father, Steve, took me on my first backpacking trip in the Frank Church Wilderness eight years later – an experience without which this book would never have been written.”  Erin  dedicates the novel “To Rob” who she recently married in the outback of Montana.  Morgan, Erin and Rob all graduated from Boise High.  Local girl makes good!  This debut book has received “stellar” reviews, and Idaho may claim another young and accomplished writer even though the Saldins now live in Brooklyn.

The Girls Of No Return is recommended to public and school libraries serving young adults, young adult teens and secondary students, as well as academic libraries with young adult collections or collections of Idaho writers.

Sue B. Bello, is a Teacher-Librarian and the Library Media Coordinator for Boise School District. 

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