What Girls Learn: A novel
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What Girls Learn: A novel

3.46 of 5 stars 3.46  ·  rating details  ·  450 ratings  ·  63 reviews
What Girls Learn tells the story of two sisters: Tilden, our watchful, wise-child narrator, and her rebellious and risk-taking younger sister, Elizabeth. With a combination of shared secrets and bitter rivalry, they seek to find out more about their mysterious mother, Frances. Part rule-maker, part hopeless romantic, Frances falls for a man her daughters have never met, an...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published February 25th 1997 by Pantheon
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(showing 1-30 of 761)
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This was a satisfying read in the best possible way. Told from the perspective of 12-year-old Tilden, this tale of sisters and mothers was a story we have heard before, but told with a fresh voice and interesting, real characters.

Tilden and her sister, Elizabeth (one year younger) move from Atlanta to Long Island when their mother, Frances falls in love with Nick. Tilden is wary of Nick, nervous about fitting in, and worried about periods, sex, and the typical adolescent concerns. She is soon d...more
K. Bird
Tilden and Elizabeth are brought by their mother to live with her new boyfriend, Nick, in his small, New York Town in the first permanent home they've known in a long time.

But heartbreak is on their heels. Their mother is suddenly at the hospital alot, and comes home to lose her hair, and her brother, Uncle Rand, comes to live with them and help. There's something a bit off about Uncle Rand, and Tilden, already lost in a maelstrom of adolescent emotions surrounding her little sister's popularity...more
Celeste Sandoval

Kind of slow but a nice story of two girls that lose their mom to cancer. If you've lost your mother to cancer, as have I, the last chapter is a must read.
Contemporary fiction. A Little bit graphic, but sincere. About a girl growing up, sisterhood, and cancer.
It's hard to know what to say about this book. Was it a good book? Yes. well written, yes. Enjoyable? Hard to call this subject matter enjoyable but it was easy enough to read as observed by the short amount of time it took me to finish it. I think it was only three nights and one afternoon of reading.

The characters are well done, nice. Sometimes such pleasant people surprise me, catch me off guard, are unexpected in such circumstances and raise suspicion. I'm always a little surprised to find t...more
What Girls Learn involves a mother's fight against breast cancer. Frances' two daughters, Tilden and Elizebeth, come together during their mother's ups and downs. The trio moves across the country when their mother meets a man and their lives change forever. The move ends up to be for the best and they gradually appreciate their new father figure.

I agree that the voice authenticity appeals to teens because it is told from the perspective of a young teen who is going through emotional and physic...more
Christa Sgobba
This was just a really good read. Despite its heavy subject matter, it was a quick one, too--I got through it in one sitting. Maybe that was because it was an Alex Award winner, meaning it's a book that was written for adults but that also has a special appeal to teens. So like lots of young adult books, this one moved quickly and didn't get caught up in overly-flowery writing or other--what I feel--unnecessary diversions.

I thought all of these characters were really easy to relate to, especial...more
What Girls Learn by Karin Cook.Now I regret to say that I was not very found of this book, I found it to be quite drawn out. Now I didn't hate it in fact I was able to read it without having to put it down. I suppose my problem with the book is that the writing style is quite basic and is not the flowery sort that I'm used to. Also there is the fact that the plot has much to do about nothing. The book tried really hard to be profound and compelling but it just didn't win me over. There were time...more
Payton D
The title clearly states it all, “What Girls Learn”. When females are young they go through a state of curiousness and paranoia. At times Tilden is so worried about not letting her mother find out about the puberty movie the sixth grade girls are required to watch, she tackles her sister Elizabeth when Elizabeth had stolen Tilden's copy of Growing Up and Liking It and began reading out loud to the boys on the bus(88). Luckily for me all of my siblings are seven to eleven years older than me and...more
Clare Ramsbottom
This book is compared to "One True Thing", which I read recently and loved.

However, I really struggled to get into it and found myself skipping forward to the end, which did move me to tears, but I didn't find anything particularly original or interesting about it.

For a MUCH better account of a daughter and her mother's struggle with cancer, I would definitely recommend "One True Thing".
This was a heartfelt story of the nuanced relationships between sister and mother/daughter, as well as step parents and extended family. Having not grown up with a sister and having a different relationship with my mother than the one presented in this book I worried that I might have difficulty connecting with the characters. But this was not the case. This story tells of coming of age, of adolescents trying to understand complex life themes - like sickness, secrets, love, and womanhood. It hig...more
Wow, what an incredibly depressing book. Maybe I found it so soul-crushing partly because I read it when I was ill and feeling sorry for myself but it really did bing nothing but misery. I won’t tell you what happens but if you’re feeling in any way emotionally wobbly, my advice would be to give it a miss.
Justina Willis
Enjoyable coming of age book. Easy to read.
Liza Prall
I hate that I didn't love this book. It was good, but I didn't look forward to the ending, which made it hard to read. It was kind of nice to read through all of the innocent thoughts going through a young woman's head as she matures, but not all that relatable for me? I have heard far better stories of families going through this tramatic event that didn't take hours of my time. Though I am not regretful for having spent the money or the time, i wouldn't suggest that you do the same
This book, What Girls Learn was definitley heartfelt and was a great story to tell, but the story wasnt written out well. I felt like the book was dragged on and didnt have any exciting points. The focus was to much on the characters. Althogh, this book did have a very good message or theme, the book was boring and I was putting it down after every chapter.
Apr 21, 2008 Jaime rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: women in the mood to cry
Recommended to Jaime by: Michelle
I feel like this was a really good book even though I started crying about 3/4 of the way through and didn't stop until it was over. ;) I really liked how well she developed the main character and it was easy to get into but it was just really depressing - it made me really sad to think of my daughter going through something like that.
This was an interesting book. I love that Tilden is the narrator, because we learn about her mom's cancer from her perspective- as a young daughter. It's a great coming of age (at a very difficult time) type of story. I found the author's writing a bit slow at certain times, so I doubt I will ever re-read this book.


I was hesitant to read this because I don't like sad books. It was not needlessly sad. It was beautifully written save for a couple of typos, which are distracting to me personally. It also portrayed the awkward girl's emergence into adulthood with a grace that makes an adult feel comfortable to have been one.
Terri Jacobson
This 1997 novel tells the story of a single mother with 2 preteen daughters who falls in love and moves them north to start a new life. The mother is diagnosed with breast cancer at the same time the 2 girls are dealing with the traumas of adolescence and what it means to become a woman. A very moving story.
Eva Leger
Jul 19, 2008 Eva Leger rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: no one
Recommended to Eva by: forget where I picked this up
Shelves: b-fiction
I'm not sure if this is meant for younger people or what but it seemed to be so for me. I did like it however, I can't say I wasn't interested. I really wouldn't send anyone out to get it from what I read but it wasn't a bad book if someone is actually looking for it.
I have read this book so many times. I think tha I could tell you word for word. This book has captured my heart. I pick this book off a shelf in a store. I didnt even read what the book was about. I knew that I had to read it. From that day it has been my faviort book.
This was a tearjerker for sure. A mother's cancer, two sisters' rivalry....just a hard read. However, I always like novels with child narrators-it gives me an insight into things we as adults overlook or take for granted.
Finally finished this book been in my bookshelf form quite some time now. It was a decent interesting read. It’s about a girl growing up and what she learns. This book also deals with sisterhood, and a mother fighting cancer.
Okay, 2.5 stars. I liked it sort of. You may love it. Some parts of the story were extremely poignant. Some parts made me wonder what happened to the author when she was a kid. Totally unnecessary. Weird, even.
Obviously I was on a teen novel kick around this time. This was a great little coming-of-age story, but I think I would've appreciated it more as a teenager. I felt like I was maybe not the target audience.
i read this book in high school and it resonated with me. i've since lost my copy of the book but i identified with the protagonist as she struggled to wrap her head around and understand her mother's cancer.
coming of age for Tilden and Elizabeth, moving from Atlanta to NY, acquiring boyfriend for mom, dealing with mom’s breast cancer. Well written, accurate, but too close for comfort at time I read it.
Truly heartbreakingly honest about What Girls Learn. borrowed it from a guy with 7 sisters who couldn't recommend it enough. One of those simple books that inhabits real people beautifully.
Stephanie VW
I read this book after my own mother died of breast cancer. I love this book for the insight Karin Cook gives into how a girl feels after her mother dies. How you still look for her.
Great beach read. It was funny, sad, sweet.. all in one. Kinda reminded me of "Are you there God? It's me, Margaret.".. all about a girl growing up & her trials and tribulations.
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