Fredericks (The Girl in the Park) delivers an intense but hopeful tale of bullying, revenge, and grief. The summer before junior year, narrator Toni Thurman had a fling with Oliver, who was “kind of taking a break” from his relationship with his girlfriend, Chloe. After Oliver and Chloe get back together, Chloe and her friends launch a terrifying assault against Toni, starting with text messages, rumors, and threats, and culminating in a physical attack. As Chloe’s campaign spreads across the school, Toni’s response is a believable mix of bravado, sadness, and terror. Unable to stop the attacks, Toni connects with Cassandra, who has found power and comfort from her own problems in witchcraft. When the girls’ revenge spells seem to work—with tragic consequences—Toni tries to find a way to heal the damage. While the ending comes a bit too easily for such a complex story, Fredericks again proves her gift for conveying the intensity of adolescence, while exploring the ways girls’ sexuality is used against them and asking why “we all have to be predators and prey.” Ages 14–up. Agent: Jodi Reamer, Writers House. (Oct.)
A teenager worries that a spell she cast against a school bully will have serious consequences in this intriguing psychological thriller by the author of The Girl in the Park (2012). High school junior Toni isn't looking forward to the first day of school. Popular Chloe is furious at Toni for making out with her boyfriend while they were split up and is sending her threatening texts. In addition, Toni's parents are struggling to recover from her father's affair with his graduate assistant. Worried and alone, Toni reaches out to Cassie, her best friend Ella's cousin, who is also suffering due to the recent death of her younger brother. Cassie tells Toni she's a witch and can help her punish Chloe. Toni plays along, but when tragedy strikes the same night they hex Chloe, Toni is terrified the magic actually worked. She avoids Cassie until Cassie threatens to cast a spell on Ella for insinuating to their family that she had something to do with her brother's death. Toni must broker a peace between the cousins while also learning how to be a better friend to both through nonmagical means. What seems at first to be a supernatural thriller is actually a realistic and frank treatise on karma and the redeeming power of female friendship. Fredericks displays an insider's knowledge of dramatic adolescent interactions through unaffected prose and dialogue-heavy chapters that make the pages fly. A refreshing take on the mean-girl trope. (Fiction. 13-16)
Starred Review, "Fredericks delivers an intense but hopeful tale of bullying, revenge, and grief... [proving] her gift for conveying the intensity of adolescence." Publishers Weekly, August 26, 2013:
, August 1, 2013: "Fredericks’ reader pleasing new novel is a page-turning, well-realized horror story of revenge gone awry and the possibility of finding redemption in the power of goodness." School Library Journal , September 2013: "This darkly honest look at bullying, high school cliques, and teen drama amid family tragedy will have readers glued to the page for every last unexpected plot twist and turn." Kirkus Reviews , September 1, 2013: "This intriguing psychological thriller...is actually a realistic and frank treatise on karma and the redeeming power of female friendship. Fredericks displays an insider’s knowledge of dramatic adolescent interactions through unaffected prose and dialogue-heavy chapters that make the pages fly. A refreshing take on the mean-girl trope."
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books , December 2013: "Fredericks gives Toni a vivid narrative voice and character, a girl who credibly enjoys male attention and shrugs at female jealousy...An unusual mix of enticing readability and thoughtfulness, this makes an interesting complement to Medina’s Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass."
When she was a little girl, Toni learned about princesses and witches. Though being a princess is glamorous, it is the witch, Toni decides, who has the real power. Later, after the popular Chloe and her entourage make Toni’s high school life a living hell, Toni joins fellow exile Cassandra and performs a spell to stop Chloe and her antics. Only, the results are far worse than Toni expected. And when Cassandra chooses Toni’s best friend as the next target of her wrath, Toni knows it is up to her to stop the witch from putting another princess under her spell. While the princess and witch themes are thought provoking and twist together nicely in the story’s resolution, the occult experimentation may be too creepy for some readers. The creative conclusion, which focuses on solidarity and compassion, is the greatest strength of this story. Through the prism of the fairy tale, Fredericks explores the power of hate and ill will versus the power of love, compassion, and understanding, weaving them into a powerful anti-bullying message. Reviewer: Kasey Giard; Ages 15 up.
Children's Literature - Kasey Giard
Gr 8 Up—High school junior Toni is completely ready to forget her ill-fated summer fling with Oliver, but unfortunately, his girlfriend, Chloe, has other plans, marshalling her minions to make Toni's life miserable. Like Laura with her glass menagerie, self-conscious Toni indulges in a bit of magical thinking, arranging and rearranging her glass figurines at home for the luckiest configuration to help her get through the school day. Toni's overweight best friend, Ella, returns from her summer at "fat camp" with shocking news-her cousin Cassandra is transferring to their school after the death of her autistic younger brother. Cassandra soon befriends Toni with the promise of exacting revenge on Chloe using witchcraft. Interestingly, the possibility of witchcraft or psychic ability is left open; while in all probability the girls simply imagine themselves to have special abilities, readers never really know for sure. This darkly honest look at bullying, high school cliques, and teen drama amid family tragedy will have readers glued to the page for every last unexpected plot twist and turn.—Madigan McGillicuddy, Atlanta-Fulton Public Library, Atlanta, GA