Friday, March 12, 2010

REVIEW: Why I Let My Hair Grow Out

Why I Let My Hair Grow OutWood, M.  (2007).  Why I Let My Hair Grow Out.  New York:  Berkley Jam.


218 pages.

So, I'm going to begin with a random tangent.  The author of this book's name is Maryrose Wood.  Doesn't that just create pretty images of flowering trees in your mind?  Blue skies and the sun above the tree...maybe a fluttering hummingbird pausing over one of the flowers to drink....

I wonder if she liked growing up with her name.  I don't think I'd be opposed to having such a pretty name.  Not at all.

Appetizer:  Since her boyfriend broke up with her, Morgan's been feeling a little lost.  Separated from her best friend and unhappy, Morgan lashes out at her parents and little sister, so much so that they decide to send her on a bike riding trip through Ireland.

While Morgan is far from happy to be on the trip, she does manage to distract herself with the "tall, beefy, basically okay-looking" Colin who is one of the guides on the bike tour.  But after her plan to attract his attention hits a kink, she goes it alone and off the map on her bike, which results in an accident that sends her back in time to "Long Ago," where she meets Irish warriors of legend and is welcomed as the half-goddess Morganne, the answer to a prophecy.

I like that the story plays with the way femininity is presented with hair.  When Morgan cuts her hair super-short, strangers compare her to Sinead O'Connor (except Morgan went with red and orange stripes).  She presents a tough exterior, but also worries about being mistaken for a boy (which, speaking as a girl who's had super short hair cuts in the past, rang true).  When Morgan is sent back through time and becomes Morganne, a goddess from Celtic mythology, her hair is once again magically long.

With the jumping back and forth in time, the humor and modern language, Why I let My Hair Grow Out feels kind of like an absurd dream.  It's interesting, but also a little scary to think about deeply because there may be no sense to be made of it all.  (The won't be scary for most, but when you're considering using the book in your dissertation, it becomes scary.)

Why I Let My Hair Grow Out is the first book in a trilogy, with How I Found the Perfect Dress and What I Wore to Save the World following it.

Dinner Conversation:

"The first thing I did was take scissors to my bangs.  Snip, snip.  Or maybe I should say, bang, bang.  My heart was beating kind of hard.
It looked okay.  The hair formerly-known-as-bangs was sticking up and out, like the brim of a baseball cap that was tilted way back on my head.  Too jaunty for my current state of mind, though.  I picked up the scissors again" (p. 1).

"Wait," I said.  Time to turn up my attitude.  "Wait.  You want me, by myself, to go ride a bike across a foreign country with towns named, Dingle, just because I cut my hair?  Isn't that a little extreme?" (p. 13).

"He was holding a much smaller, handwritten sign of his own.  It read:
I come to fetch the bonnie Morgan.
Hope your arse is ready for the trip!
Your friends at The Emerald Cycle Bike Tour Company
I guess he could tell by the dumbstruck and pissed-off look on my face that it was me standing in front of him, because he unslouched himself and actually tapped his finger to his forehead in a dorky little salute.
"The bonnie Morgan, I presume!" (p. 17).

"The nightmare reality of putting my skinny arse on a bike seat for an entire week was starting to sink in, and it was not a good feeling.  But anything had to be better than being stuck at home with my white-lipped, worrying parents and robot-girl Tammy, with the total lack of Raphael echoing through every square inch of my open-plan house, my no-name town, my ruined and empty life" (p. 18).

"I was on the ground, but I wasn't sure how long I'd been lying there.  I opened my eyes.
The long gray muzzle of a horse was pushing gently against the side of my head.  I felt its hot breath on my cheek.
"Fergus!" the horse cried.  "Look who's come back!" (p. 57).

"I'd have to bluff, but I wasn't worried.  When it comes to BS I knew I had a talent.  We're talking about someone who made it all the way through Mrs. McKinney's chemistry class without ever figuring out what the periodic table was.  With a B-minus average, thank you" (p. 150).

To Go with the Meal:

Although probably best as a fun read, this book could be used to encourage teen readers to explore Irish myth.

A teacher could also focus on Morgan's emotional development, how she let her boyfriend Raph consume and control her, how she works to figure out who she is through rebellion, and how given the choice, if she has sex, it'll be protected.

Tasty Rating:  !!!

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