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4.0 7
by Terra Elan McVoy

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What would you do for love? Nikki helps her boyfriend commit murder in this “dark, devastating, and realistic portrait of a girl in over her head” (Publishers Weekly).

Nikki’s life is far from perfect, but at least she has Dee. Her friends tell her that Dee is no good, but Nikki can’t imagine herself without him. He’s hot,


What would you do for love? Nikki helps her boyfriend commit murder in this “dark, devastating, and realistic portrait of a girl in over her head” (Publishers Weekly).

Nikki’s life is far from perfect, but at least she has Dee. Her friends tell her that Dee is no good, but Nikki can’t imagine herself without him. He’s hot, he’s dangerous, he has her initials tattooed over his heart, and she loves him more than anything. There’s nothing Nikki wouldn’t do for Dee. Absolutely nothing.

So when Dee pulls Nikki into a crime – a crime that ends in murder – Nikki tells herself that it’s all for true love. Nothing can break them apart. Not the police. Not the arrest that lands Nikki in jail. Not even the investigators who want her to testify against him.

But what if Dee had motives that Nikki knew nothing about?

Nikki’s love for Dee is supposed to be unconditional…but even true love has a limit. And Nikki just might have reached hers.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Jeanna Sciarrotta
Nikki has one thing on her mind when she wakes up in the morning and that is Dee. In her crazy, dysfunctional life, he is the one thing that she counts on, the one thing that she thinks is right. That is, until he gets a mysterious phone call from the police that ultimately turns Nikki's world upside down. In this fast-paced teen novel, McVoy pulls her audience helplessly into the world of desperate teen romance and the question of exactly what one girl was willing to do in order to gain acceptance and value in the eyes of the guy that she loved. This book will pull in most female readers with its fast paced, emotional first pages and will captivate even self- proclaimed nonreaders with its short chapters; however, stronger readers will find that Nikki lacks depth as the leading character and not all of the storylines are totally dealt with by the conclusion of the story. This teen novel serves as a recommendation for high school lower-level readers or as a supplemental independent read in a unit about choices and consequences. Reviewer: Jeanna Sciarrotta
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Nikki's love for Dee is unconditional. She needs him and she knows, deep down in her heart, that he loves and needs her, no matter what her friends think or how he might sometimes act. And because he loves her when nobody else does, she is willing to do anything for him. Little does Nikki know how far down a criminal path that commitment will ultimately take her, implicating her in a murder that leads to prison. Told by Nikki, Criminal is not an easy book to read. The protagonist is very complex; desperate to be loved and needed, she is almost totally reliant on the affirmation of those around her. It is her search for self and freedom and finally redemption that readers will invest in. While they may not necessarily agree with her, they can certainly see and, on some level, understand why she does what she does. The story moves quickly and the characterization is particularly strong. McVoy's interpretation of life in the county lockup rings true but is definitely counter to stereotype. It is refreshing to see the bond that develops between Nikki and her fellow inmates. This is a book for any teens who might consider themselves lost and desperate for love and belonging.—Erik Knapp, Davis Library, Plano, TX
Publishers Weekly
Like McVoy’s previous books, a romance is central to this hard-hitting story, but the author’s fans may be surprised by just how toxic that relationship is. Readers are immediately plunged into the world of trouble that Nikki, 18, and her 20-year-old boyfriend, Dee, are in as they fabricate an alibi following Dee’s murder of a local deputy. Nikki’s unstable home life (her mother is an abusive drug addict) drove her to drop out of school to work at a hair salon, move in with single mother Bird (Nikki’s only real friend), and bury herself in an intensely sexual and unhealthy relationship with Dee. Nikki gets a rude awakening when the police close in, and Dee turns on her, leaving her alone and facing painful decisions. It’s a dark, devastating, and realistic portrait of a girl in over her head in more ways than one. What McVoy (Being Friends with Boys) gets so powerfully right in this novel is the way that love can descend like a fog, impairing one’s judgment and obscuring the truth. Ages 14–up. (May)
From the Publisher
It’s a dark, devastating, and realistic portrait of a girl in over her head in more ways than one. What McVoy (Being Friends with Boys) gets so powerfully right in this novel is the way that love can descend like a fog, impairing one’s judgment and obscuring the truth.
Kirkus Reviews
Nikki would do anything for her boyfriend, Dee. But, when he talks her into committing a crime with him then leaves her to take the fall, Nikki begins to think that even true love has its limits. Even though all of her friends tell her that Dee is trouble, Nikki cannot seem to pull away from her moody and sometimes violent boyfriend. Nikki's stepfather is in jail, her mother is strung out on drugs, and her grandmother is dead. Only her friend Bird, with whom she lives, offers any real stability. Unfortunately, Bird hates Dee, forcing Nikki to choose. Even after the police reveal that Dee's "N" tattoo might actually be for another girl and Nikki is imprisoned, she defends her troubled boyfriend. Graphic sex, violence and foul language, while appropriate to the circumstances, overwhelm the tale. Even though it is clear that Nikki is lost in her own addiction--to Dee, not drugs--her continued reluctance to see Dee for what he is becomes wearisome. McVoy's story of abuse and addiction lacks the subtlety and depth that this difficult topic demands. Readers who make it all the way through the story will be grateful their incarceration is finally ended. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Product Details

Simon Pulse
Publication date:
Sold by:
Sales rank:
HL710L (what's this?)
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

I’D BEEN DREAMING I WAS BEING CHASED BY A GIANT PIT bull. It was barking, and then it opened its mouth and I heard Doooom. Doooom. Dooom. Dooom, the bass beat sound Dee’s phone makes. It was ringing somewhere on the floor, under our clothes. My eyes opened as he leaned off the narrow futon to answer it. We hadn’t been touching because he can’t sleep with anyone touching him. But I could still feel him moving away.

“We have to go,” he told me when he hung up. He hadn’t said much into the phone.

I watched the stretch of his ribs as he pulled last night’s T-shirt over his head. The tattoo on his bronze chest disappeared: N—for Nikki—surrounded by swirling angels’ wings. I smiled, seeing it. Thinking of my lips on it last night.

“Get up.” He didn’t look at me.

“Are you okay?”

“Get some clothes on.” He walked out of the room. To the kitchen, or to find whatever narrow scrap of joint was left in the ashtray from last night.

I heard him muttering to Bird and her muttering back. Both of them low, short. I lay there hoping that Dee would say something to Bird about where we were going, what the phone call was about, but really I knew that hoping Dee and Bird would talk much to each other was like hoping the last scratch-off number on your ticket would reveal you’d won the whole $25,000 pot.

I kicked the blanket off and reached for whatever pair of shorts lay handy. I didn’t know where we were headed, but wherever Dee needed me to be, I was going to go.

Meet the Author

Terra Elan McVoy has held a variety of jobs centered around reading and writing, from managing an independent children’s bookstore, to teaching writing classes, and even answering fan mail for Captain Underpants. Terra lives and works in the same Atlanta neighborhood where her novels After the Kiss, Being Friends with Boys, and Pure are set. She is also the author of The Summer of Firsts and Lasts, Criminal (an Edgar Award nominee), and In Deep. To learn more, visit TerraElan.com and follow Terra on Twitter at @TerraMcVoy.

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Criminal 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
Nikki knows her life isn't a dream come true. Even the thought of seeing her mother makes Nikki's skin crawl. Her step-father is in jail. Nikki is a high school drop out. But she has her friend Bird and her job at the hair salon. More importantly, Nikki has Dee. Everyone tells her that Dee is no good but Nikki doesn't believe that. Not really. How can Dee be anything but perfect when he looks so good and makes Nikki feel like this? He even has her initial tattooed on his chest. When Dee does the unthinkable, Nikki is drawn into a crime that will shatter everything Nikki had taken for granted in her less-than-perfect life. After spending so much time wrapped up in Dee's world, Nikki isn't sure what it will take to stand on her own in Criminal (2013) by Terra Elan McVoy. Criminal is a finalist for the 2014 Edgar Awards for Young Adult Mystery. In a departure from her lighter fare, McVoy presents a gritty, evocative story of life in the wake of a shocking crime. The novel bends notions of right and wrong while also artfully exploring the idea of complicity as Nikki comes to terms with her own role in Dee's crime. Nikki is a flawed, often naive, heroine who has tried to make the best of the blessed little life has given her. She turns a blind eye to Dee's many faults. She makes mistakes. She is impulsive and quite foolish. Despite these shortcomings, Nikki's growth throughout the novel is impressive. While she does not always make the smartest decisions, Nikki is a survivor. Although Criminal is touted as a mystery the main story here is really one about a girl trying to find her way. Even with all of the obstacles she has to face, readers will close this book with a sense that Nikki will make it through. Possible Pairings: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee, Blank Confession by Pete Hautman, Boy Toy by Barry Lyga, How to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller
KimTeamer More than 1 year ago
Powerful and raw! This book will grab your attention and keep it. It was a different type of read, but terribly profound on so many levels.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book Criminal was a great story. It may have been a little slow, but there are some exciting parts. It was a book that young adults can learn from. Over all I enjoyed it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The best book i've every read
The_Busy_Bibliophile More than 1 year ago
Nikki is a teen with a rough homelife. On the days she just can’t take her mother (which are a lot, understandably), she stays with her neighbor, Bird, a young mother trying her best to make a living while staying out of trouble. But Nikki makes staying out of trouble hard when she won’t let go of Dee, her bad boy boyfriend. He’s everything she should stay away from, but he makes her feel so special she’s become blind to his faults. Nikki was not a likable person for a long time. She had a crap upbringing and a crap mother (at one point, her mother actually tried to pimp her out to a druggie) but you’d think that would have given her some street smarts. Not so much. She was blinded by love and couldn’t see Dee’s faults. Even after he proved to her what a dick he was, she still loved him and made up excuses for him. It was hard to feel compassion for a character when you didn’t know why she made the decisions she did. We didn’t get a chance to really get to know Dee, most of the action involving him happened in the past. We saw everything through Nikki’s eyes, and she had a tendency to gloss over the details where he was concerned. So it was harder to understand his pull on her. Bird was a great character. She also had a tough upbringing, but she managed to turn it into a positive thing. She was strong, knew what she wanted, and what personal rules she needed to set. She was an excellent role model for Nikki. I was only sorry Nikki didn’t lean on her more and follow her example. There was not a lot of action in this novel. The incident mentioned in the blurb happened in flashbacks, and Nikki ended up in prison pretty quickly after the start of the book. The bulk of the novel followed Nikki as she learned to adjust to life in prison, and the self discovery she went through while there. There was a bit of sex, and while not overly graphic, it was descriptive, almost clinical in terms. The dialogue was different from other books I’ve read – it was short and fast. Nothing poetic or flowery about it. There was lots of cussing and drug and alcohol references. Though I enjoyed this book overall, it wasn’t exactly entertaining. It was tough to watch as Nikki made stupid choice after stupid choice. There was little action; the story mostly involved talk. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it makes for a different kind of story. The sum up: Though sad and hopeful, there wasn’t a lot of entertainment value in this one.
majibookshelf More than 1 year ago
Criminal was a novel about a girl who found her self involuntarily being an accessory to a crime her boyfriend committed. This novel deals with how the main protagonist, Nikki, deals with being part of the crime as well as trying to keep her boyfriend safe from getting busted and obsessing over him to no end. In all honesty, I was slightly disappointed with this novel because of several reasons I'll mention below, but overall, it was still a very realistic and honest take on taking advantage of a girl's desperate need to hold on to the one she "loves". Nikki ends up witnessing, or a least hearing, gun shots that ended up killing a cop. She also was the getaway car for her boyfriend after he killed the cop. It took a couple of seconds for Nikki to process it all but a couple of days in pathetic denial about what happened during that single minute. I just found it SO frustrating that somehow all Nikki cared about after the murder was Dee.. Dee.. and Dee. I was in AWE. Your lovely boyfriend just killed a guy, a cop, a father, a husband.. and all you seem to care about is whether Dee replied back to your message or when he'll see you? really? I mean, it is not like Nikki has been on the wrong side of the tracks.. she seems to be a pretty stand up girl, so I would believe she at least has a conscious. So to say I was annoyed, furious, and out right disgusted at Nikki is an understatement. Of course Dee was another story all together, my instant hate for him mirrored the hate radiating from Bird, Nikki's friend and also the girl who allowed Nikki to stay with her when she didn't have a house to stay in. He was SUCH a charmer (sarcastic tone). Here is when he really won me over, his reply to when Nikki kept on freaking out after the whole murder happening:"What if I put my fist straight through that mouth of yours, crush your pipes so you can't talk anymore, huh? What if that?"I do believe that Terra Elan McVoy is a brilliant author for invoking so much emotions towards her characters. I am not denying that some people aren't like Nikki or Dee, but these are the types of people and stories that I don't care much about because people like that frustrate me to no end. However I do believe that Nikki ended up getting burnt extensively for being so naive and lovestruck. Her heart, in the end, isn't full of hate and black blood like Dee. She really did make an honest mistake for trusting Dee and going against her instincts. The first half of the novel was the whole Nikki being obsessive over Dee, but when she got busted for the crime, and you see the reality of being tangled up with the wrong people and how your life could be wasted for this tiny mistake, that is when I started flipping the pages like a madwoman, trying to find out what will happened to Nikki, Dee, and the relationship between Nikki, Bird, and even Nikki's mother. The whole trial and court dealings were something I was very interested in and in the end I did enjoy the novel overall. I think the second half redeemed the novel for me and I was glad I stuck through with it to the end. If you are looking for a glaringly honest and realistic story of a girl ending up being an accessory to crime and how that changed her whole life, you should definitely pick Criminal up. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago