Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a starred review, PW called this comedy about two troublemaking fifth graders who question authority "tart, subversive and wholly entertaining." Ages 10-up. (Sept.)
The ALAN Review - Connie S. Zitlow
"ME" stands for Margalo Epps and Michelle ("Mikey") Elsinger, two new students who meet on the first day of fifth grade. In this episodic story, set in an elementary school and told primarily in dialogue, the ME girls are as mean as possible. Mikey is aggressive, changes the all-male soccer team, and is in constant battle with Louis Caselli. Margalo seems sweet but is the instigator of malicious gossip and gross tricks. It is difficult to say who will read this book, because the only thing that drives the story is wondering what the girls will do next or guessing who changed the contents of Rhonda's lunch box. The stereotypical descriptions of the teacher and the students (bullies, Gap girls, and nerds) are disturbing and the figurative language ineffective, even if done to convey a certain perspective. Bad Girls is not among the better stories that Voigt has written. Readers expecting powerful language, strong characterization, and an interesting plot will be disappointed.
Children's Literature - Gisela Jernigan
Margalo Epps and Mikey Elsinger, two new girls in Mrs. Chemsky's fifth grade class, soon discover that they have more in common than their newness and their habit of writing "ME" (their initials), on their papers and notebooks. Although different in demeanor, looks and family background, both Margalo and Mikey are dedicated to upsetting the status quo and enlivening the classroom and school playground. This involves humorous and imaginative challenges to Mrs. Chemsky's strict but fair rules as well as social, gender issues established by the students, such as boys only on the soccer team. The personalities of both "bad girls", Mrs. Chemsky, and the other students are especially well developed.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-Mikey Elsinger and Margalo Epps meet in Mrs. Chemsky's fifth grade class. Both are new to Washington Street Elementary, and both have a knack for stirring up trouble. Their methods are different. Loud, aggressive Mikey will do anything to get her own way. Calm, devious Margalo enjoys starting rumors and playing mind games. Together the girls are responsible for a number of dramatic scenes, in which Mikey is always a central figure. Margalo stands up for her in front of their often-hostile classmates, but neither girl quite trusts the other, and they often argue. Then, when Margalo's sneaky pranks catch up to her, Mikey refuses to let her friend be punished alone. This act cements their bond; at last, the two are ready to expand their relationship beyond the school setting, where is has developed, to real life. But herein lies the narrative's weakness. The inference is that both girls lack attention at home. But since the action is set exclusively at school, readers never learn just what experiences have shaped them into their present selves. This frustrating lack of background information prevents youngsters from fully understanding the characters. However, it is clear that they will continue to revel in the sheer delight of being "bad girls." Rarely does a novel set in elementary school celebrate the fierce joy that "troublemakers" derive from successfully manipulating the personalities and situations around them. Readers who follow the rules in reality will find a vicarious thrill in experiencing life through Mikey and Margalo's eyes. -Mary Jo Drungil, Niles Public Library District, IL
In her landmark YA novel "The Runner" (1985), Voigt tells her story from the viewpoint of a proud, solitary teenage boy; here, her strong, mean outsiders are female, younger, and funny. Michelle ("Mikey" ) acts mean and dangerous (Why should boys be the only ones to have fistfights or play soccer or be class president?); Margalo pretends to be nice, but she's a tricky liar. When the two girls meet in Mrs. Chemsky's fifth-grade class, they circle each other, slowly becoming friends, outlaws together. Voigt has written a fast-talking classroom comedy that mocks traditional gender roles. Sugar and spice are out. Being "nice" is the worst insult. Meanness is what gets you respect. Teasing keeps you on top; so does revenge, the grosser the better. The story is told almost entirely in dialogue, much like a TV movie, and set entirely at school--the classroom, playground, girls' bathroom, principal's office. It's hard at times to know whom "she" refers to, since the viewpoint keeps switching between Mikey and Margalo and, occasionally, jumps to the smart, bossy teacher; then there are the 28 other class members to keep straight: the various bullies, the Gap girls, the smart student, etc. But the talk is very funny (Mikey had leadership, "just nobody would want to follow her" ); the action is nonstop; and the confrontations are dramatic, both verbal and physical. Voigt gets the querulous, jumpy, obsessive talk, the glimpses of civilization in the fifth-grade jungle, as the friends struggle for both loyalty and independence. There's so much attitude, but there's also failure, and readers will recognize the fact that meanness can be about anger and misery as well as glorious mischief.
A distinguished writer is at the top of her form in a sharp and sassy tale of two fifth-grade troublemakers.
Thrown together by the alphabetical seating arrangement, Margalo Epps and Michelle "Mikey" Eppinger cautiously form an alliance that deepens into a stormy but firm friendship. Both are bright, tough, acerbic, and fond of stirring things up, but their differences really spark the relationship: Mikey is public and aggressive, willing to punch the class bully in the nose or dye her hair green, while Margalo prefers to start damaging rumors or slip a dead squirrel into a prissy offender's lunch. Voigt (The Wings of a Falcon, 1993, etc.) creates a set of complex, believable, still- developing characters, and parks them mostly in a brilliant, very experienced teacher's classroom to explore what makes them tick. The girls are motivated not by malice but general anger (Mikey) and loneliness (Margalo); most of their imaginative, carefully directed pranks are paybacks, less hurtful than horrifying and frequently hilarious. Unrepentant to the end, this pair of unlikable but admirably capable mavericks outmatch even Barbara Robinson's Herdman family for sheer sand.