Forget-Her-Nots, by Amy Brecount White (Greenwillow, 2010, YA, 365 pages).
One might say it began with the small cluster of flowers outside the door of Laurel's room at boarding school, on the very day she was to give a class presentation on the Victorian language of flowers. That was the first day on which fourteen-year old Laurel felt the first touches of her magical ability to send messages with flowers--messages that could really effect people's lives.
Or one might say it began years ago, with a long chain of flower lovers gathering knowledge, and passing it on to the children who inherited their gifts, teaching them as they came into their power. But Laurel's mother has died, and there is no-one, it seems, to teach her...and yet the flowers are calling to her. Armed with an antique handbook on the language of flowers, Laurel begins to work magic on the lives of her classmates and teachers.
But soon she finds herself in somewhat over her head. Still grieving for her mother, uncertain in the social realm of her new boarding school, falling in crush with a cute boy--there's a lot on Laurel's plate without being pressured by her classmates to produce with magically efficacious bouquets for every occassion. Fortunately, the gardens of Laural's school, and the woman who tends them, have a history entwined with that of Laurel's family...a history that will help Laurel recover from her grief, and claim her birthright of flowers.
The premise that the language of flowers is actually magical is a lovely, imaginative one, especially delightful to a flower lover such as myself. The language of flowers is an integral part of the text, and the meaning of each flower, and how those meaning played out their parts in the social melange of high school made for reading that was fun, a little zany, and occasionally poignant. The drawback of the heavy reliance on the flowers was that Laurel's growth as a character seemed to me somewhat occluded by the character traits induced by her botanical choices...
Forget-Her-Nots is not a fantasy in which where the magical powers of the heroine involve her in a matter of life and death. The stakes are the ordinary difficulties of high school (will prom be wrecked by floral magic gone awry?), the outcome sweet, rather than earthshaking. I'd recommend this to the 12 or 13 year old who isn't quite ready or willing to plunge into darker fantasies, who might well find it a lovely and satisfying journey.
Other reviews at Presenting Lenore, Unsearchable Riches, Green Bean Teen Queen.
And just in case anyone is looking for more books in which magic meets the language of flowers--one of E. Nesbit's lesser known books, The Wonderful Garden (1911) tells of two children who are convinced they are working magic with their floral undertakings....Not my favorite Nesbit, but quite fun.
(disclaimer: my copy of Forget-her-nots was sent by the author)