Score: 89/100 (8.9 out of 10)
The question “WHO AM I?” is one of the key questions to our existence. It's a question that just about every human being who has come to maturity has had to ask themselves.
Here are some examples:
“I am a teacher”
“I am a soccer player”
“I am gay”
“I am Latino”
“I am tall”
“I am smart”
“I am significant”
The question of “WHO AM I?” is something we thought about when reading A Franklin Girl's Story: Roses by Dave Mayer.
The book follows a high school junior named Cali who lives in the titular town of Franklin, Illinois. Cali would likely determine: “I AM A GOLFER.”
Cali is a relative loner with one close friend in Brandy and a close-knit relationship with her father, mother, and family-friend Hank. Her father has instilled in her a love for the sport of golf, something which they also share with Hank.
She is trained by Coach Wilson into a formidable force, but Wilson dies rather early into the book. This begins a sort of theme of Cali losing people to sudden and unexpected deaths. At first, this was impactful and emotional, but it became overdone at a certain point. In fact, the losses tended to blur together to the point where, by the end of the book, we were wondering who died and in what circumstance.
Another theme in this book is Cali coming to maturity, coming into her own, and discovering herself. Along the way, she gets her first boyfriend (Tommy), discovers that she may be bisexual, and even considers doing things like getting a tattoo (ideally a rose tattoo). As you might expect, roses are a reoccurring motif in the book, occurring in dozens of different scenarios.
Cali herself isn't a particularly appealing protagonist. There's something about her that's difficult to describe, but it's just... a gut feeling. Perhaps it's that she's supremely arrogant and also a bit self-centered. She constantly looks for ways to get one-up on other people, even people who are being courteous, kind, and friendly. Yes, that may be an aspect of being competitive, but Cali takes it to the extreme. She seems to hate her competition and anyone else who might be a little better than her.
She can be bratty and rude at times, like when she yells at Tommy for something that doesn't make much sense to him. Perhaps explaining her sexual orientation in a polite and educational manner may have sufficed. Instead, she attacks and later vilifies him over it. Also, it's not entirely unnatural for someone to be concerned that their love interest/girlfriend/partner might be attracted to other people. It's the same for heterosexual relationships. Heterosexual partners wonder if that one hot guy at work is hitting on their girlfriend or if the busty new office clerk might be flirting with their husband. By exploding at him, it just shows that Cali is a one-track mind, self-centered person who fails to put herself in other people's shoes.
A lot of Cali's character development consists of her losing people and reacting to it or learning she's moving somewhere and reacting to it. We know that sounds harsh, but there's some truth to that statement. She's actually a rather static, somewhat flat character. Again, it's difficult to describe, but she never really gets us up on our feet and cheering for her, or even crying for her when something bad happens to her.
Now, it's interesting to see her progress as a student, and particularly as an athlete.
Her competitive golfing is by far the best part of this book. She competes in various golf contests against various opponents. One of the most memorable was her showdown/duel with Leslie, a strong golfer of equal talent. There are about 3-4 of these competitions, each serving as a highlight in their own right. However, the family/friend relationship dramas run amok. It's similar to what happened in All-American on the CW channel. It became much less about the sport (which we all came to see) and much more about personal drama. To an extent, that's fine, but we really wished this was a book more focused on the golfer actually golfing. Much of the dialogue and many of the interactions between the characters are quite flat anyway. For example, there are several instances in which characters just greet each other like (to paraphrase):
“Hi, what's up?”
“Nothing much, how about you?”
“I got accepted to OU!”
“That's cool. Congrats.”
There seems to lack an oomph to most of these interactions. The only one that really stands out to us is the aforementioned meltdown that Cali has over her sexuality not being understood by Tommy.
Still, if you love sports (especially golf) and drama, this might be a cool book to check out on Amazon!