As McMahon's (Promise Not to Tell) uneven first YA novel begins, 10th-grader Maggie, the narrator, has ensconced herself in the dysfunctional family of her new best friend, Dahlia Wainwright, whose imbalanced mother uses dolls to "predict the future, or maybe even control it." While describing the Wainwrights' rituals in great and often burdensome detail, the author gradually reveals that the formerly popular Maggie has survived a car accident that killed her mother and has left her with scars, a limp and a terrible sense of guilt. Maggie admires Dahlia (who "leaves traces of herself wherever she goes, the way a shooting star leaves a streak of light behind it"), and soon her feelings turn sexual. To this already freighted plot McMahon adds a story line about an improbably good band which the girls form with two classmates, both of whom seem cast much too conveniently. Although much of the story is far-fetched and ancillary characters are unconvincing, Maggie's feelings for Dahlia are believable, and lyrical descriptions buoy the prose. A satisfying end rewards readers who make it to the finish line. Ages 14-up.
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Children's Literature - Abby Spencer
At one time, Maggie was popular. Now, she is an outcast known as the Frankenstein girl. After the accident that killed her mother left her leg scarred and pieced together by rods and screws, Maggie is in need of a friend. The day Maggie introduces herself to Dahlia Wainright is the day Maggie's life is forever changed. Dahlia is smart, beautiful, eccentric and mysterious to all the other tenth grade girls. Their budding friendship soon turns into much more for Maggie, who thinks she could be in love with her new best friend. The outrageous journey of Maggie and Dahlia's friendship turned love relationship leaves them and the world around them eternally altered. This coming-of-age story of heartache and hope takes the reader on Maggie's journey to discover her true self and demonstrates how one can be transformed by the power of a first love. Reviewer: Abby Spencer
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up
Maggie's sense of self was shattered, along with her leg, in a car crash that killed her mother two years ago. Now 15, she is reborn in the alternate identity of "LaSamba," an eager follower in the wild, creative fantasy world of her intoxicating new classmate Dahlia ("Tiki") and her mentally ill mother. In this emotionally powerful and realistic story set in the 1990s in a small town in Connecticut, Maggie loses herself completely in her new identity, and slowly but surely comes to find a true, new self that includes the indisputable-but scary-fact that she is a lesbian and in love with Tiki. Readers are swept along with Maggie's swirling feelings, making it easy to understand how easily this fragile, sensitive girl could lose herself. Secondary characters also have complex emotions and motivations. Had this novel been published 15 years ago, it would've been a groundbreaking addition to LGBT literature; as it is, it still stands strong as a period testament to the anti-"lesbo" feelings of that era, as well as simply a well-written tale of self-discovery. Sex scenes focus on emotion and are not overly explicit.-Rhona Campbell, Washington, DC Public Library
An author for adults shifts her audience to teens with mixed success in this romance about two girls. The slow-paced plot hinges on familiar elements: a teenager whose mother has died, a strong sense of alienation and a surprisingly successful band. Tenth-grader Maggie, who was popular in junior high, attributes her current alienation to the car accident two years earlier that killed her mother, for which Maggie feels guilty. Calling herself "Frankenstein girl" because she limps, Maggie befriends another outsider, the new girl Dahlia. Much of the book details Maggie's growing love for Dahlia and her infatuation with the free-spirited but poor life Dahlia shares with her brother and mentally ill mother. Their romance, which becomes sexual, encounters problems and painful homophobia. The girls also start an implausibly good band with a handsome football star who falls for Dahlia. Although most of the other characters are not fully developed, Maggie and Dahlia grow and change through their romance and pain. Readers who like dreamy, even quasi-mystical, nonconformity may enjoy this slightly dark but ultimately hopeful romance. (Fiction. YA)