Like her equally gripping debut (Such a Pretty Girl), Wiess's suspense story delivers an outsize jolt of adrenaline. Meet Ardith, the much-derided daughter of a low-life, abusive family, and Blair, her more respectable best friend, whose father "ditches [her] to go cheat with his girlfriend and [whose] mother pimps [her] out to further her career." The two take turns narrating what initially appears to be a police statement; however, Wiess shrewdly times clues to suggest rather different circumstances. The girls chronicle a history of suffering (rape, ridicule, abandonment), until they decide to take control and pay back their wrongdoers-with interest. As scandals usually do, the final moments of the book unfold with a bang and a twist, and readers may be shocked at Blair and Ardith's actions even if they are not completely surprised. Although the "best friends against the world" theme is not new, Wiess's clear insight into the evolution of victim into perpetrator and her layered storytelling bump up the subject to a much more challenging playing field. Ages 13-up. (Jan.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
AGERANGE: Ages 15 to 18.
This tale begins at the end. Taking turns, Blair and Ardith tell their story--their confession--to an unknown listener. Though they are only 15, it quickly becomes clear that they are bitter, jaded, and have seen too much for their young age. They grimly tell their listener that there are some hard lessons one has to learn to survive the transition from child to teenager, and their story is laden with them. Blair and Ardith come from dysfunctional families where the girls are basically on their own. As their story unravels, the listener learns of the drinking, abuse, rape, and neglect that define their lives. The girls cling to each other, but Blair’s mother does her best to keep them apart. They muddle along, just barely surviving their personal hells. When an accident brings their families together in an unlikely way, the girls can’t take it any more. Sick of watching their families pretend to be people they aren’t, the girls develop a plan to expose the truth, hoping the outcome will change their lives for good. Blair and Ardith’s confession is completely gripping and disturbing. Here are essentially good girls who are doing their best to thrive in awful circumstances. They suffer emotional, sexual, and physical abuse. They are manipulated, lied to, used, and ignored. The crime they confess to remains unclear right up until the end, building suspense in an already tense story. Their narratives bring up questions of free will, intent, and responsibility. Blair and Ardith contend that while guys explode (in violent and vengeful ways), girls implode, absorbing the pain of annihilating themselves. The end of their story will leave readers wondering if there’struth to that idea, if one way is better than the other, or if maybe both exploding and imploding can happen simultaneously. Reviewer: Amanda MacGregor
March 2008 (Vol. 42, No.2)
Blair and Ardith need to grow up. Fast. At fifteen, there is so much they need to know to survive. Information such as how to duck under all the unwanted attention dished out by drunken parents and the oversexed friends of Ardith's older brother or how to deal with the emptiness and unrealistic expectations found at the mausoleum that Blair's professional parents call home. So they do. They learn to use the weapons at their disposal-sex, gossip, lies, even the truth-to pay back everyone who has ever harmed them. They finally win-or do they? The open ending leads to questions over whether the price the teens pay is too high for the success they achieve. Told with clarity and sympathy, this book leads the reader through the bleak maze of traumatic adolescence. With just enough intrigue and suspense, it is difficult to put down. The characters are well rounded, and although none is particularly likeable, there is enough common ground in each for the reader to identify in some way with all of them. It is interesting that the only "good guy" in this book is the friendly, neighborhood cop, who plays a pivotal although somewhat ineffectual role in this excellent addition to all libraries, especially those serving urban youth. Reviewer: Angie Hammond
Suburban teen girls take justice into their own hands. Ardith and Blair come from opposite sides of the tracks. Despite their dissimilar socioeconomic status, the girls are kindred spirits. Both want to escape the hostility of their family lives and gain control of their future. Ardith's parents live on the fringes of society. Her parents are substance abusers with extremely relaxed morals, and her older brother is a sexual predator. Always skirting the law, Ardith's family is but a few infractions away from incarceration. Her spotless academic record and her virginity are Ardith's only sources of strength and hope-until she meets Blair. The daughter of privilege, Blair is used as a pawn by her social-climbing parents. Caught up in her parents' miserable marriage and political scheming, Blair learns to suffer in silence. Isolated and manipulated, Blair is desperate for attention and longs for power. Ninth grade brings the two girls together as they contend with first boyfriends and surging hormones. Lacking parental supervision, the girls start getting into trouble as they begin to experiment with sex, drugs and alcohol. Their cries for attention start small but escalate quickly. As their exploits get riskier, a kindly police officer gets tragically pulled into their messy lives. To set things right, the girls scheme to pay back all the adults who have slighted them. The climax is explosive, but it's the feisty heroines who will resonate more. Gritty drama from Wiess (Such a Pretty Girl, 2007) that will get teens and parents talking.