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The Secret Language of Girls

The Secret Language of Girls

4.4 96
by Frances O'Roark Dowell

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In the old days, when Kate had no interest in romance, she never cared what other people thought. Now, it appeared, love was turning her into a rotten human being.
Eleven-year-old Kate Faber wishes she could talk to her best friend Marylin about this. But Marylin is no longer her best friend. Or is she? Kate and Marylin had always been the kind of best friends


In the old days, when Kate had no interest in romance, she never cared what other people thought. Now, it appeared, love was turning her into a rotten human being.
Eleven-year-old Kate Faber wishes she could talk to her best friend Marylin about this. But Marylin is no longer her best friend. Or is she? Kate and Marylin had always been the kind of best friends who lived on the same block for their entire lives and who could agree on the kind of boys worth kissing (only movie stars) or who should be invited to their sleepover (definitely not Mazie Calloway or Elinor Pritchard). The kind of best friends who didn't need words to talk, but who always just knew.
But lately Marylin has started to think that Kate can be a bit babyish. And Kate thinks that Marylin is acting like a big snob. And a lot of the time, well, it feels as though they just don't know each other anymore. Somehow nothing is the same, but secretly Kate and Marylin both wish that it could be....
Edgar Award-winning author Frances O'Roark Dowell explores how far the bonds of true friendship can be stretched as Kate and Marylin struggle to navigate the inexplicable terrain of sixth grade.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In a perceptive slice-of-life novel, Dowell (Dovey Coe) knowingly portrays the changing dynamics of middle-school relationships. Neighbors Kate and Marylin, who have been best friends since nursery school, find themselves drifting apart at the beginning of sixth grade. Marylin suddenly focuses on her appearance ("As much as Marylin hated to, she had to admit it: She was the sort of person who cared about toes"). Kate pays more attention to other issues, like the health of her father, who suffers a heart attack early on ("Her dad would probably never got to eat another sausage pizza in his life. For some reason, that seemed like the saddest thing Kate had ever heard"). Alternating Kate's and Marylin's points of view, the novel progresses episodically, with large gaps of time separating "milestone" incidents in the girls' movement along different paths. Marylin makes the cheerleading squad and becomes popular, but happiness always seems just beyond her grasp. Meanwhile, Kate feels abandoned by Marylin and strives to develop new friendships with other classmates at school. Much of the plot matter is familiar-both girls fall in and out of love, sample different social circles and end up realizing that they miss each other-as Dowell offers insight and evenhandedness, not novelty. Girls will recognize their own dilemmas here and feel encouraged by the author's honest and sympathetic approach. Ages 8-12. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
The forever friendship of 11-year-old pals Kate and Marylin is put in doubt when older, self-assured, manipulative Flannery moves into their neighborhood. The fact that her family chooses to buy the house right between Kate and Marylin is a first indication that Flannery is planning to wedge herself between the girls. Before the "know-it-all" arrives on the scene, their innocence is a given. Flannery's arrival signals a change in course, and it may not be for the better. She has a lot to say about everything, and she says it with authority. "Flannery always varied her opinions as though they were facts you could look up in an encyclopedia." Suddenly, the friends are faced with growing up issues such as the meaning and responsibility of friendship, what it takes to be popular even to the point of abandoning individuality in favor of acceptance, giving in to peer pressure, insecurity caused by families growing apart, and the first pangs of puppy love. The story is alternately advanced from the perspective of Kate and Marylin. All three girls, Flannery included, learn difficult lessons as they choose to move in different social circles. Marylin learns perhaps the saddest, but truest lesson of all. "The hard part about having so many new friends was that the old ones got lost in the shuffle." The characters are well developed and are effectively used to give a realistic account of preteen struggles. 2004, Simon & Schuster, Ages 8 to 12.
—Francine Thomas
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-Kate and Marylin have been best friends forever. The 11-year-olds begin to drift apart, however, when manipulative Flannery moves into the neighborhood. Partly motivated by unhappiness and insecurity, the older girl influences the passive Marylin to turn against Kate. Marylin joins the cheerleader crowd while Kate eventually gravitates toward classmates who don't follow the herd. Told from various points of view, including those of characters closely involved with the events as well as others on the periphery, the story follows these girls as they struggle with hurt feelings, peer pressure, acceptance, and self-image. Although Marylin believes Kate to be totally immature, it is ironically Kate who ends up romantically involved with a slightly geeky boy who appreciates her kindness and growing sense of self-worth. Flannery grows increasingly disconnected, but Kate learns to stand up to peer pressure. Her hard-won self-possession serves her well when she is the target of a mean prank in which Marylin participates; the tide turns, and kids will admire Kate's handling of the situation. Perhaps a bit unbelievably, the book ends with the repentant Marylin phoning her ex-best friend. Excellent characterization, an accurate portrayal of the painful and often cruel machinations of preteens, and evocative dialogue will make this tale resonate with most readers, who will see themselves and some of their peers in its pages.-B. Allison Gray, John Jermain Library, Sag Harbor, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Kate and Marylin, best friends from nursery school, find themselves increasingly out-of-sync as the rigors of sixth grade test their friendship. Kate loves basketball and doesn't care (much) what other people think, but Marylin finds that she is turning into "the sort of person who care[s] about toes." The penetrating text follows both girls through the course of the year, the third-person perspective moving back and forth between the two as Marylin and Kate drift apart. The ructions to friendships brought on by middle school are hardly new to children's literature. What makes this offering stand out, however, is Dowell's ability to maintain the reader's sympathy with both girls: instead of painting the social-climbing Marylin as a villain, the nuanced characterization shows that she is equally a victim of forces beyond her understanding. Less successful is the use of some secondary characters: a nonconformist girl seems to be introduced solely to provide a model for Kate, and Marylin's little brother threatens to steal the show at points. Still, it's a solid treatment of a subject in which there will always be an interest. (Fiction. 9-12)

Product Details

Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
Secret Language of Girls Trilogy Series , #1
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.70(d)
870L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Frances O’Roark Dowell is the bestselling and critically acclaimed author of Dovey Coe, which won the Edgar Award and the William Allen White Award; Where I’d Like to Be; The Secret Language of Girls and its sequels The Kind of Friends We Used to Be and The Sound of Your Voice, Only Really Far Away; Chicken Boy; Shooting the Moon, which was awarded the Christopher Medal; the Phineas L. MacGuire series; Falling In; the critically acclaimed The Second Life of Abigail Walker; Anybody Shining; Ten Miles Past Normal; Trouble the Water; and most recently the Sam the Man series. She lives with her husband and two sons in Durham, North Carolina. Connect with Frances online at FrancesDowell.com.

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Secret Language of Girls 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 96 reviews.
Sophie_Spinnett More than 1 year ago
This is a very good book. I was hooked just by reading the back cover. I even gave this to one of my friends as a birthday gift and she loved it as much as I do. It is a very good story about dealing with friendships and finding yourself. I highly recommend this to all of the school girls out there that like a heartwarming story.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
They've been friends forever, but now they are in sixth grade and something is going wrong.

This is the story of many friendships. Anyone who has felt their best friend drifting away will appreciate THE SECRET LANGUAGE OF GIRLS.

Kate and Marylin considered each other BFFs, but as sixth grade begins, their friendship is on a downhill slide. First there's Flannery, the worldly seventh grader who moves in down the street. Flannery mysteriously chooses Marylin over Kate, and the slide begins. Marylin and Flannery refuse to speak to Kate and hurl nasty insults her way practically every day.

Eventually, Flannery starts hanging out with eighth grade girls and leaves Marylin wondering what happened. It seems like the perfect time for Kate to renew their friendship, but Marylin tries out for and makes the cheerleading squad, and those new friends are just as mean as Flannery. They claim they don't have time for Kate, who isn't allowed to use makeup and prefers basketball to cheerleading.

Below the surface of the girls' new acquaintances, both spend time puzzling over how things have gotten so out of control. They both consider confronting the difficult topic, but neither wants to risk rejection.

THE SECRET LANGUAGE OF GIRLS offers middle grade readers a chance to experience a crumbling friendship that might very well be like experiences of their very own. This book examines the idea that we often know the right thing to do, but we don't have the courage to take a step in that direction.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book. It shows the ups and downs of friendship. With some books, i read for 5 minutes then close it. With this book i can read it 4 hours!
this_is_me More than 1 year ago
i loved this book;; i read it back in 5th gradee.. and now am buying it so i can re-read this story. absoultly amazing book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow great book i couldnt stop reading it!!!!then i had to read the second one really quick!!!!oh and i like it also because i relate to it.....im the same age as the chariters!
TeDDy_PwOOh More than 1 year ago
I remember when it first came out in 2005.....I was hooked. I finished it all in one day. It's a cute little story.But I hated how marylin and flannery gave her the silent treatment, the worst part is afterwards marylin wants to be kate's friend again and kate acted like everything was fine......They should have made kate a little more independent...It almost seems like Marylin took advantage of Kate just because she is a forgiving person...that part was very frustrating.....also the ending was very confusing...it was a horrible way to end it. But other then that it was a good story and I enjoyed it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book captured me from the first paragraph. I have read it numerous times and I still love it. I would definately recommend this book to other kids. Not only is it a great book, but people can also relate to the main characters problems and issues, and they can understand the main characters thoughts and feelings.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read the second book its called: The Kind Of Freinds We Used To Be
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Like this book but not my favorite. If u like friendship books, this one is great for u!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was awesome, i could not put it down and i got totally lost in it. being a 6th grader, things like these do happen and i think every girl my age needs to read this book! :)
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Secret Language of Girls is the best book I have ever read. When I first saw the book I didn't think I would read it. But I said I'll try it. I was so interested by how amazing it was by the eighth page. I think people in the age group of eleven through twelve.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Gifted voice performer Michele Santopietro (with credits on TV's The Sopranos) brings to her reading all the pathos, giggles, insouciance and, yes, downright meanness typical of preteen girls as they struggle to find their place among their peers. Kate and Marylin have been best friends for all of their lives - all 11 years. They live on the same block, have spent countless hours together completely happy in one another's company. Suddenly, the air has changed with the arrival of Flannery and Marylin's interest in being a part of the 'in' crowd at school. It's tough to lose a best pal, even tougher when you can't figure out what in the world has changed her. Nonetheless, Kate soldiers on eventually finding where she belongs in the ever shifting tides of pubescence. This is a story to which all young listeners can relate in one way or another. They'll see themselves and their friends in it - perhaps learning a thing or two. - Gail Cooke
Anonymous 12 months ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this in school and i liked it so much that i got on my Nook and bought it as soon as i got home
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book ever. This book is really touching. I just wish i could meet the author. Im like Kate in so many ways. I LUV THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was crazy awsome! I totally loved it! I really liked the characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ever stop talking to you bff? After reading this i was touched. This was an amazing story about friendship. Lader in the continueing story it shows you kinda what its like dealing with love and friendship.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was great i loved how the author shares both marylin and kates thoughts
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved thus book so much! It took me right away from the beginning. It is a very interesting friendship book for all ages. But probably mkstly for 6th,7th, and 8th graders.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First of all, i am so sorry your friend is ignoring you! Believe me, it has happened to me before and i know how awful it feels. Secondly, how long has this been going on, and do you remember doing anything that may have caused this reaction? Let me know if you make any progress. An even though you dont know me, my name is Elizabeth and i am here for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It started a few months ago. I dont think i did any thing wrong. She keeps acting like she is busy and it is starting to seem like she is making an excuse. And the worst part is she understood me beter than i did. Ok ok mabey that is an excageration but really we where all but sisters and then it is like " Ok i dont want to be her friend any more so i will just ignore her so i dont hurt her i can even make excuses" so a few days ago i told her this" Ok A (that is as close to her name as i get) sorry but i dont want to be your friend any more so bye" i could care less about her feelings she was (i cant belive what i am about to say) acting like a jerk ignoring me like that. Sorry about the rabaling on like that. Reply to Christian Girl
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It gives me a glimpse of what it will be like in middle school. :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago