[Book Review] A Surprise for Caroline (American Girls: Caroline, #3) by Kathleen Ernst

Caroline imagined it would be great fun to have two girls staying at her house for the winter. But her friend Rhonda Hathaway and her cousin Lydia are both twelve, and sometimes they seem to be better friends with each other than with Caroline. Worse, they'd rather stay inside styling hair than go skating and sledding! Nothing Caroline tries seems to change things, not even the special Christmas gift she gives Rhonda. Finally, hurt feelings lead Caroline to make a rash decision--one that puts all three girls on very thin ice!

The third book in the American Girls: Caroline series, A Surprise for Caroline, is the War of 1812-era protagonist's winter story. The book's main theme is friendship, and so Caroline finds herself at odds with her two friends, Rhonda and Lydia, who are two years older than her and have more sophisticated interests. When Caroline wants to go outside to play, they would rather focus on more ladylike--and less childish--activities.

I'll admit I was quite surprised--perhaps even a bit disappointed--by how Ernst resolved the plot; I expected Rhonda's younger sister, Amelia, to play a much larger role in the story. As Caroline is feeling childish compared to her friends and has no interest in their preferred pastimes, I honestly expected her to bond with Amelia, who, being far and away the youngest girl in the house, clearly suffered similarly. However excluded Caroline felt by the gap between herself and her older friends, one can only imagine that poor little Amelia was far lonelier. I honestly think Ernst picked the lesser of two potential plotlines by passing over the idea of Caroline bonding with Amelia in favor of a reconciliation with Lydia and Rhonda.

But that's not to say it's a bad book. It's as endearing a story as one would expect from the American Girl line. Caroline's a great addition to the franchise, a wonderful character who's both likable and realistically flawed. I definitely recommend the Caroline series to anyone interested in giving the American Girl books a go, and I can't wait to see how her story ends.

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