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Girls, boys, trust and growing up rule 'The Girls in Queens'

Author Christine Kandic Torres explores the lives, loves and dangers of two girls who grew up together in New York.

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"The Girls in Queens" is the debut novel by Christine Kandic Torres.

You don't know what he's thinking.

The words out of his mouth are one thing; his shoulders and hands say another, as he waves them around, trying to make a point. He says he's telling you what he means, but it's muddy. His sentences are nonsense and you don't know what he's thinking. As in the new novel, "The Girls in Queens" by Christine Kandic Torres, it may be years before you fully do.

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For most of their 11 years, Kelly had shared everything with her best friend, Brisma. And sometimes, those were things that Brisma wished she didn't know.

Like, for instance, that the college-age boy who rented a room in Kelly's mother's basement had been playing "practice" kissing games with Kelly. Or that Kelly had actually talked to Brian, the weird boy who'd moved to the neighborhood from Bolivia. Or that Kelly had decided to make Nicky Gargiullo her first boyfriend in sixth grade.

Brisma was sure there was more she'd never learn.

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Sometimes, as a child, she wished she was more like Kelly: self-confident, comfortable in her own skin, more knowing. As she grew up, though, she began to see Kelly's behavior as a little self-destructive; it didn't help that Kelly was basically alone by then, with her Colombian father gone and her mother in jail.

By the time they graduated, Brisma often felt that she didn't really know her best friend at all. She went out to the bar too much, drank too much, and she went home with any boy who asked her – including, Brisma was sure, Brian, who was Brisma's boyfriend. Brisma had almost caught them together once, and they both swore that nothing had happened.

Thing was, she trusted Brian more than she trusted Kelly. She knew for sure that Kelly lied a lot; Brian, on the other hand, had never broken Brisma's trust. He'd never told her anything that wasn't true – had he?

Judging by the childhood and adolescent memories, and the boyfriend-girlfriend-best-friend drama in "The Girls in Queens," you may think that this is a more of a novel for your high schooler than for you. That's okay; she can read it, but there are absolutely some big-girl themes inside this book.

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Author Christine Kandic Torres.
Contributed

Right from the start, know that this book is about sexual assault, who's believed, who is blamed, and which accusations go ignored. In leading up to this, author Christine Kandic Torres makes a big but subtle distinction between Brisma and Kelly, their home lives, their educations, and the role models they have (or don't) – which turns out to be the biggest gulf of all for the characters. Still, the relationship between them plays a very major part in this story, also making it a book on young women's friendships.

Beware, too, before you mother-daughter tag-team read this book, that there's profanity in "The Girls in Queens" and some not-too-graphic bedroom scenes that fit the theme of the story. Keep that in mind when you start it, and you'll think it's a pretty good book.

Book notes

"The Girls in Queens" by Christine Kandic Torres, 2022, HarperVia, is available at online booksellers and at Barnes & Noble Booksellers at Apache Mall.

Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old, and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on the prairie in Wisconsin with one man, two dogs and 16,000 books. Look for her at bookwormsez.com or bookwormsez on Twitter.

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Bookworm — Terri Schlichenmeyer column sig

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