Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Ferris (Invincible Summer) follows six months in the life of a 16-year-old confined to a criminal rehabilitation center for teenage girls in this novel based on interviews with young women in real-life rehab. Dallas craves the excitement of "skating" -- hot-wiring cars, shoplifting, snatching purses -- to fill the emptiness left by the death of her irresponsible mother and the coldness of her rule-bound father. But when she's caught in the midst of a convenience store holdup, gun in hand, and her father tells the judge that he can no longer control her, Dallas ends up in Girls' Rehabilitation Center, a stop between "Juvie" and a more punitive work camp. Through Dallas's eyes, readers meet the other wards at GRC, as well as the people who work to help (and sometimes hinder) them -- wan, wispy Toozdae, turning tricks to support her siblings; Dahlia, wedded to the white supremacist credo; tough-talking Shatasia, determined to change for the sake of her baby; plus Mary Alice ("Malice"), a probation officer who revels in insulting and ridiculing the girls, and counselor Nolan, who runs their Anger Management sessions. Ferris often opts for insight over authenticity in Dallas's first-person narration ("At home, at school--when I managed to get there -- everything seemed to be in slow motion and muted colors. I felt hollow and barely visible"). As a result, the narrator comes off as more of an observer than a fully realized character. But the author's willingness to explore the issues these girls face, as well as her refusal to settle for easy answers and sugarcoated endings, makes for a thoughtful novel. Ages 12-up.
To quote KLIATT's Sept. 1998 review of the hardcover edition: Dallas, age 16, routinely defies her father and hangs out with her bad-news boyfriend, snatching purses, shoplifting, and hot-wiring cars for joyrides. But she gets into real trouble when she's caught holding the gun during an armed robbery...the judge sentences her to six months at a rehabilitation center. There she meets an assortment of other "bad" girlsgirls involved with gangs, with drugs, with abusive boyfriendsand eventually she learns how she can change her life, difficult though it may be. This is a clear-eyed, often graphic look at troubled teens, based on interviews the authors did with girls at a rehabilitation facility in San Diego. It doesn't have a pat ending, and it shows just how hard life can be for these girls whose lives have gone so wrong at such a young age...The eye-catching cover, with the word "bad" stamped in red across the figure of a slouching girl, will attract readers, and they'll quickly become engrossed in Dallas' tale and pull for her to make it. An ALA Best Book for YAs and Quick Pick for YAs. KLIATT Codes: S*Exceptional book, recommended for senior high school students. 1998, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 182p., $5.95. Ages 16 to 18. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick; KLIATT , November 2001 (Vol. 35, No. 6)
VOYA - Marcia Mann
Sixteen-year-old Dallas craves excitement-a craving that leads to her arrest for the armed robbery of a convenience store. Deserted by her friends and accomplices and given up on by her disappointed father, Dallas is sentenced to six months in the Girls' Rehabilitation Center. There she encounters an assortment of other "bad" girls; some trying to turn their lives around, others not certain they can change or that they even want to. These girls come from a variety of different backgrounds-some poor, some middle class, and one wealthy girl who views her time at the Center as a "vacation." Many of the girls have been victims of abuse or neglect, and are struggling to understand the concept of being responsible for their own actions despite what their friends and family may do. Dallas benefits from watching some of the repeat offenders revert to their old ways once on the "outside," and a few who manage to alter their behavior. A kindly counselor introduces Dallas to books such as Carson McCullers's The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (Bantam, 1983, (c)1940) that help Dallas to break out of her own self-absorbed shell. Ferris conducted a series of interviews with inmates at a rehabilitation center in preparation for writing Bad. The voices of Dallas, the other girls, and the counselors ring true and readers will relate to Dallas's search for self amidst unsavory circumstances. An insightful and non-judgmental novel, this is also an absorbing, quick read that should appeal to many young adults. VOYA Codes: 3Q 3P M J (Readable without serious defects, Will appeal with pushing, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8 and Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9).
Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
Resentful of her father, and still mourning the death of a mother both idealized and idolized, sixteen-year-old Dallas gets in more trouble than she really intends. Before she knows it she finds herself landing in Girls' Rehab. There she meets a motley assortment of girls, tough and scared, angry and fearful. And the staff vary widely too in their ability to heal or hurt their charges. As their stories unfold, Dallas learns about herself and what it is she wants out of life. The interaction among the girls, viewed against the sparse institutional setting, is dramatic and emotionally charged, yet this hard-hitting YA novel also has its moments of humor. Dallas's fractured relationship with her father is explored with sensitivity and warmth.
Ferris (Love Among the Walnuts, p. 1115, etc.) chooses an unusual locale; the Girls' Rehabilitation Center, or GRC for this story about a teenager's attempt to bring herself into focus.
Dallas is a bad girl, who thrills to the dangers of "skating" shoplifting, purse-snatching, joyriding, having sex in public places that almost fill the vacuum she feels inside. In the opening chapter, she is the reluctant gunwoman in a failed hold-up of a convenience store, which lands her six months in the GRC. Her comrades forget her; her father, who could have prevented her incarceration with a good word to the authorities, decides that serving her sentence will do Dallas some good. Life in the GRC is structured, isolating, rigorous, and sometimes violent. The author puts together an abrasive, volatile, and abused set of characters; at the center is Dallas, whose vacillating emotions and internal blueprint for failure come across as lived experience.
Ferris subtly and skillfully divines slim hope and a glimmer of choice from the necessarily weighted stories of the girls on the inside, making for a compelling read. (Fiction 13-15)