THE Girl of the Year
May 3, 2023
You push back the daunting doors to the American Girl Doll store, rather, palace. There she awaits, on her royal throne, American Girl’s highest ranking Girl of the Year. You keep your head down as you approach. Your stature is one of a shy nobleman. You attempt to raise your gaze to see the face of such an aristocrat, yet the atmosphere is sharp, restricting your eyes from meeting her gaze. You stand before her.
“Who really is she,” you ponder. “If I had to guess… there can only be ten contenders.”
Ranked at 10: Joss Kendrick (2020)
Joss Kendrick is a skateboarder, surfer, and cheerleader. She is completely deaf in her left ear. Her story is interesting. She tries out for cheer due to a bet she had with her brother, but after making the team she decides she actually enjoys the sport and continues. I did obviously have some problems with her. During her video series on YouTube, Joss’ attitude was not number one worthy. Even though she changed her mind post tryouts, she still initially thought cheer was a joke. Even when she “loved” the sport, she still made fun of the cheerleaders who did traditional cheer with pom poms. I like that American Girl gave her a hearing aid, creating representation for young deaf girls. However, that does not change the fact that she has a bad mindset.
Ranked at 9: Lanie Holland (2010)
Lanie is one of the dolls that first comes to mind when you think of American Girl due to her blonde curly hair and iconic striped dress. Lanie looks up to her Aunt and wants to become a scientist just like her. She loves nature and her bunny Lulu. Other than that Lanie doesn’t have much going on. The main reason Lanie made the list is because of the actual doll and her sets. They encapsulate her year perfectly and I appreciate that.
Ranked at 8: Gabriela McBride (2017)
Gabriela ranked this high because she is PA proud. A young girl from Philadelphia who loves to dance and uses spoken poetry to help her in speech therapy. Her story of overcoming her stutter is inspiring to young children and prevents children from developing insecurities due to their speech. Gabriela’s tale of her personal obstacle is inspiring, but her hobbies are horribly boring. A love for poetry is cute, but did we need another Girl of the Year that dances? Isabelle Palmer was released only three years prior. I’m tired of the dance storyline. Give us something more, something not overused and watered down. A highlight of Gabriela’s doll is her bedroom set. Unlike her original outfit, her bedroom set is an example of American Girl’s creativity.
Ranked at 7: Lea Clark (2016)
Lea Clark is a summer girl. In her story, she takes a trip to Brazil, which leads her to face her fears and make friends. While in Brazil, she gets over her fear of the ocean and learns about the harm being done to the rainforest. There is one major flaw Lea is missing, a personal struggle. A fear of the ocean may be considered a struggle but that gets resolved in her first book (spoiler alert) and then she continues to have two more books. I do like how instead of a personal struggle American Girl decided to focus on the major problem of the state of the rainforest. It encourages young kids to want to change the state of the world, something their generation will have to do. Her outfits and sets are very cute and creative (too bad American Girl’s creativity would flop in 2017). Lea Clark is a cute doll and has a pretty simple story.
Ranked at 6: Isabelle Palmer (2014)
I’m surprised if you don’t know her. Isabelle is a dancer enrolled at Anna Hart School of the Arts along with her sister Jade. Isabelle was riddled with anxieties and insecurities. She wasn’t confident in her dance and felt overshadowed by her sister, a star performer. Later Isabelle learns her natural strengths. Isabelle was the first girl of the year dancer and that girl danced like no other. Her sets are adorable and arguably the best. Not only does she dance, but she also designs costumes. Isabelle’s Studio set was beautifully crafted with the tiniest details. Isabelle also has a layer of pink hair that can be easily removed. This was the first time American Girl customers had ever seen dyed doll hair. Even after writing this, I think I could have ranked Isabelle higher.
Ranked at 5: Grace Thomas (2015)
I consider Grace to be the last of Girl of the Year’s golden era. Grace was inspired to open her own bakery business after a venture to Paris. She has that American entrepreneur spirit with her bakery goals. Grace’s story is a tale of stepping out of your comfort zone, a common theme is the Girl of the Year line. In combination with Grace’s story of food, American Girl partnered with No Kid Hungry to help the struggle of childhood hunger in America. Grace had complex sets that were clearly inspired by France. I have a problem with that. While yes, a French aesthetic is cute and hasn’t been done before, this is AMERICAN Girl. Are we serious? American Girl is lucky that Grace’s sets were actually done well otherwise her line would’ve been a complete flop. Grace’s movie was well done and starred Olivia Rodrigo. I’ll give Grace the benefit of the doubt and blame her French theme on the obsession young girls had with Paris in 2015, it’s not completely her fault, and she did kinda work it out.
Ranked at 4: Nicki Fleming (2007)
Nicki is one of those dolls that even if you didn’t have her, you knew her. One of her outfits literally came with chaps. Nicki lives on a ranch in Colorado and has a passion for horse riding and skiing. This is what I mean when I say Girls of the Year need originality. Be done with the dancers and give me more Nicki. Nicki’s mom announces she is having twins, so Nicki is given the task of training a new puppy as a service dog as a result of her not being able to say no. The task is kind of a lot for a ten year old, as you might imagine. Even though her collection doesn’t consist of a lot, it’s nearly flawless (her Gala Outfit is a hot mess). Obviously her collection isn’t going to be as grand as newer dolls, yet it was done so well and extremely cohesive.
Ranked at 3: Saige Copeland (2013)
Saige is a young girl living in New Mexico who rides horses and is extremely passionate about the arts. Even though she has a fear of public speaking, when she finds out she won’t have art in her next year of school, she fights to do something about it. This is pretty bold for an upcoming fourth grader. Her story encourages young children to use their voice and fight for change. Saige also deals with jealousy, due to her best friend hanging out with a new girl who tends to give Saige attitude. I like how relatable Saige’s story is, a lack of school funding and friendship issues, things lots of fourth graders in America experience. Saige has few flaws, but once again, here goes American Girl giving dolls similar hobbies. Even though the last horse was in 2007, American Girl just needed to give another doll a horse. Let’s be a little more original please. I appreciate Saige’s sets, a mini hot air balloon is very New Mexico and her original outfit is one of the most iconic out of the Girls of the Years.
Ranked at 2: Kanani Akina (2011)
Kanani lives on Kaua’i and helps her family with their shaved ice shop. In Kanani’s story, her cousin Rachael visits and Kanani helps her adjust to life on the island. The main plot of Kanani’s story is when she starts fundraising for seal conservation efforts. Kanani’s story is simple but executed well. Kanani is another Girl of the Year staple. Her sets are well done and her shaved ice stand is one of the first notable big sets. Kanani’s long hair also sets her apart from the rest. She came in a unique long dress and kukui nut lei. Kanani is one of the most iconic American Girl Dolls to this date.
Ranked at 1: McKenna Brooks (2012)
If you were a fan of American Girl in the 2010’s, you either had McKenna or wanted McKenna. She is THE Girl of the Year. In McKenna’s story she is trying to make the competitive gymnastics team. McKenna has been struggling in school due to her reading comprehension skills. At a showcase, McKenna does a perfect beam routine and as she gets to the end she does a backhandspring, a skill her coach said not to do. This results in a broken ankle. Now, McKenna can only focus on school. McKenna improves her grades, and she later makes the competitive team. McKenna’s movie truly made her the best American Girl. Not only was her movie the best American Girl film, her sets were perfectly made. McKenna is the it girl of American Girl.