Everybody calls them the Whores on the Hill, but they don't care.
It is the mid-'80s and they go to the last all-girls' school in Milwaukee, where innocence is scarce and happiness is something to grabbed at in the backseat of a fast car.
Meet exuberant, uninhibited Astrid, her nervy, troubled friend Juli and Thisbe, the shy, ascetic newcomer. They are fifteen years old. And they believe they can take on the world, no matter what it calls them.
But when euphoric promiscuity mixes with a series of dangerous, deadly pranks, their world at Sacred Heart Holy Angels can never be the same.
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Read an Excerpt
WHAT WE KNEW
We knew all the dances you stood in line to do: the Electric Slide, the Modified Y, the Tootsie Roll. Even the Ooh! Aah!, although the right-left-shuffle gave Juli some trouble.
We knew how to count calories, how to accessorize with multicolored bandannas, how to iron on an iron-on decal. You just ironed it on.
We knew how to hem a skirt three inches above the bare knee. We knew how to tuck the fabric so our uniform skirts flipped a little when we walked. Like a dance or a cantanelle.
We knew we were the last all-girls' high school in Milwaukee.
Astrid knew how to French inhale off a Lucky Strike. Some Fenwick kid taught her. Hands on, my guess. Astrid.
We knew a lot of things about hair: how to brush, comb, and tease it. How to streak it, how to dye it, how to get gum out of it with the white jelly of an egg. We knew how to curl it with curling irons, how to straighten it with flat irons. We knew that hair was very important.
We knew everybody called us "The Whores on the Hill."
Juli knew a seven-letter word for everything. Like tendril or fulvous. She was a crossword puzzle champion. I mean, she had trophies.
We knew we were pretty, but Astrid was the only one to say it.
We knew all the words to "Je t'aime . . . Moi non plus" by Serge Gainsbourg. "He's the dirty mouth of French pop," Astrid said. "In case you didn't know."
We knew how to pack a bowl, how to sniff glue out of a wet handkerchief. These were parlor tricks, sleight of hand you showed off at parties.
"You know, you should only buy condoms with Nonoxynol-9," Astrid said. "It kills AIDS."
We knew Sister St. Joe snuck cigarettes in the boys' bathroom since there were no boys to find her.
We knew Juli liked to scratch her arms with the sterilized end of a stickpin, only we didn't talk about it. Everyone had something. We were girls.
We didn't know that we didn't know enough. We didn't know that our lives would change, that high school wasn't forever. I mean, not unless you died.
But we did know something. For instance, we knew sex was like a dance. Like shuffle-shuffle-step.
We knew we were restless, feet tapping, waiting for the phone to ring.
Someday, we knew, we wouldn't dance in a line. We'd step outside, elbows in all the wrong places, and get the hell out of there, Sacred Heart Holy Angels, the last all-girls' school in Milwaukee.
But first, we'd just blow smoke and say, "Tell me something I don't know."
We stood, the three of us, Astrid, Juli, and me, between the Ping-Pong table and the wet bar in the basement of somebody's house. Astrid tapped her serrated nose with one black fingernail, the dimpled nose that gave her face a feral, catlike expression. She flipped up her collar, preppy style, and eyed a dark-looking, tough guy sucking a shot of Jagermeister off an ice luge dripping in the utility sink.
We were fifteen. The world hadn't even started for us yet, only Astrid taught us to look at the world slantwise. She cut her wet, almond-shaped eyes at Jagermeister kid and said, "Okay, sure. Like, that's him."
Jagermeister kid saw and wiped his lovely pink mouth. He smiled, edged his lean body, his frayed jean jacket, back against the dryer and flicked his wrist, as if to say, Come on.
"You want him?" Juli asked.
And we were walking. Easily, we slipped past kids shuffling their shoulders back and forth, dancing. We skirted past kids knotted up in each other, sprawled across the plaid, moldy couch, making out.
All ladylike, we sidled up to Jagermeister kid. Astrid tucked a honey-colored curl behind one ear. She went, "Hey, give us some."
And it was easy as that.
"Sacred Heart sluts." It was more like a whisper, a ring of blown smoke, the kind of thing that circulates at parties. Our reputation.
"Do they have to say that?" I asked, fiddling with the white pleather purse I kept across my hip.
"Put your mouth here," Jagermeister kid instructed.
The alcohol scuttled down the luge like fire. Astrid opened her mouth, her neck back, then Juli, then me. All of us, breath like licorice whips.
"I know you," Jagermeister kid said.
"Sure you do," Astrid answered. "We're everywhere."
All three of us crammed into the bathroom off the kitchen. There was potpourri everywhere, in baskets and dishes of glass.
"Fuck if he's from Fenwick, no way. Did you see that tiger tattoo?"
"He said he's calling his friends. A whole mess of them."
"You look fierce. How'd you do that to your eyes?"
"Now don't get drunk and leave me," Juli said, brushing the shock of black bangs out of her jade green eyes to copy Astrid's eyeliner trick. She smeared the black kohl all the way out to her temples.
"I like your hair," Astrid said, fingering the strawberry blond wings sprayed back from my face, hair too wispy and thin to hold fast to the silver pins Astrid tucked behind her ears.
We heard revving motorcycle engines, like lions out above us in the yard.
"Anywhere but Metropolis. We're always going there," Astrid said, flipping a leg over the banana seat behind Jagermeister kid. He wore a jean jacket, had black spiky hair and a raffish mole under his left eye. He said his name was Vance.
"You can call me Van," he said.
Van's friends wore leather jackets and ratty denim. Older boys. The blond one grinned. He had wine-stained birthmarks all over his face, like fingerprints or dye.
"Skinny-dipping," Van said. "I know a place."
We hopped on the backs of their bikes and we were off. Revving out of the suburbs, shooting straight for downtown. Van led with Astrid behind him, the blond ends of her hair trailing like tassels to a curtain. The Miller Brewing Company squatted on the river, its red sign flashing neon in the black night like a giant word from God. We breathed in the hops easy, all that bacteria fermenting.
"What's your name again?" mine called over his shoulder, the words clipped in the wind.
I lost the letters of my name to the roaring night. "Thisbe."
"What?" he called.
The boys hung a left onto the wide, sloping residential streets that circled the light-flecked lake. Van called ahead, "Demon ride." All the boys cut off their lights and hit the gas. Juli let loose a short, happy scream. We were coasting, flying, soaring weightless through the night's black skirt of the sky.
Van cut his motorcycle engine on a darkened dead-end street. The lake slapped up against the shore. It was a spring night, seventy degrees, the last sigh of summer, and not that late.
"Are you scared?" one of the boys said. "Don't be scared. Animals can smell fear on you."
Van peeled off his jacket and his shirt. Then his friends, they unhooked the buckles on their boots, stepped out of their Levi's. Their chalky skin collected the light from the boats strung out like lanterns against the shoreline.
"Well," Astrid said and slipped out of her Izod polo. Juli and I rubbed our bare arms, watching. Astrid untied her wraparound skirt and kicked the sandals from her feet. Cherries dotted her underwear. "Are you just going to stand there?" she asked.
Juli shuffled her brown shoulders out of her T-shirt.
The water was blacker than ink. Astrid waded in to her waist, pointed her sharp arms over her head, and dove. Her head emerged, silver and wet, her eyes shining. "Jesus," she said.
Juli eyed my denim skirt and whispered, "You'd better or Astrid will get pissed."
"Just give me a second," I said, as I slowly, awkwardly undressed. Crouching, I slipped into the water like pulling a blanket over my body.
"You're cute," my boy from the motorcycle said. He washed up beside me in the water, barrel-chested with wiry copper hair brushed over his chest like fox fur. His tongue tasted like peach schnapps and smoke. His hands grabbed for my legs and I was kicking, splashing out of reach.
"Whoa," he said. "Just kidding."
Astrid and I floated on our backs and poked our toes through the black water. The moon threw seeds of white light.
Juli breaststroked over, her lake-slick head bobbing above the water like a seal, and said, "His birthmark is sexy. What do you think? Will it always be like this?"
"Sure," Astrid said. "Why not?"
Van threw his arm around Astrid's blanched shoulders. The crude handmade tattoo on his small, hard bicep read i am alive.
"A kid died here. Hit an icy patch on his bike and slid right in," Van said.
"Girl, I'll warm you up," mine said. His mouth was like fire on my skin.
Everything black sky and stars.
"Turn around. Close your eyes," Astrid said when we wanted to get out. All of us, dripping wet and shivering. Juli's black hair whispered like smoke down her back, so beautiful you could sigh.
Headlights hit the water. Red, then blue.
"Five-oh," Van said and freestyled for the shore. We were running for the trees, laughing.
"I like them tough. Did you see his arms? Like ropes or something," Juli said.
"Look at that hickey. Gross."
"See Thisbe, that wasn't so bad, was it?"
"He forgot my name. Kept calling me 'Girl.'"
"I felt it underwater. Like a fish, darting around."
Van and his friends ran their bikes down the dirt road behind us, lights off, until they were out of breath. I watched them toss a pack of cigarettes between them like a red-and-white ball. Astrid tucked the tongue of Van's shirt into his jeans; she feathered his hair with her fingers.
"Handsome." She bit his ear. "Just like I like them."
"Get on," they said and we shot back to the suburbs, freezing wet.
At home, even in bed with the covers pulled tight, it still felt like we were flying, Astrid, Juli, and me, burning through our bare, balding town like a breath of wet fire. Our desire. We wanted the world. All of it, and now.
WE ATE HUNGRY
"Two tablespoons of cottage cheese," Astrid said to Mrs. Noelle, the lunch lady with the ratty hairnet. Astrid palmed her a quarter and said, "You're a champ. Really." Juli ate a green apple. I gnawed on spearmint gum. Lunch only lasted thirty minutes at Sacred Heart Holy Angels. We were hungry, but skinny.
We liked to see our hipbones. We liked to see our ribs. The cafeteria was always swarming with noise: tray tables banging together, dishes slung in the sink, girls laughing, swearing. All of them, chewing on macaroni.
"Come on," Astrid said, and we spent the rest of the lunch hour behind the Virgin Mary, smoking.
"'Whores on the Hill.' Give me a break. Who said that last night?" Astrid lit a Kool and squinted at the blistering asphalt parking lot stretched out behind Sacred Heart.
"How does the whore feel the day after?" Juli joked.
"Tired." Astrid yawned and flicked her spent butt spinning. "The whore doesn't want to think about it. The whore wants to take a nap."
Astrid and Juli laughed with their mouths open. They laughed, their heads back, and I thought, "Where am I? How did I get here?"
Lying in bed, at night, my stomach growled. I rolled over and tucked my knees to my chest. I saw myself smaller and smaller, like a seed in the black night soil of the earth. Here were the stars and here was the city. Here was the net of the world and I was waiting deep down inside it.
In the morning, I took one piece of strawberry-blond hair and cut it with a razor, zigzag bangs across my forehead; I hemmed my skirt three inches above the bare knee; I blacked out my eyes with kohl, just like Astrid did. I had always been such a nice girl; I was still such a nice girl. My mother took one look at me and asked, "Why would you want to be like that?"
I ask you, why, why not?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I am a 19 year old girl, and I read this book when I was 14. It did not fill my mind with smut, and was certainly not porn, let alone masturbation worthy (lolz). It did not teach me bad morals like some other reviewers implied reading this book at such a tender age would result in. If anyone truly believes that, it's your own fault for expecting Colleen Curran to raise your children. She is a writer and owes us nothing. Reading is not dangerous, and that kind of thinking is what has lead to ugly things like book-burning. Check thyself before thou wreck thyself. I didn't find this book extreme at all, but then again, I hung around some wild kids growing up. I had a friend exactly like Astrid, and it was funny reading this at 14, because that was when I was close to her, and it sort of served as a preview. I liked it more than other so-called shocking teen books that I had read because the quality of writing in Whores On The Hill is better, and very authentic to the inner-monologue of a teen girl. It's hard to explain, it just sort of takes you back, if you were one of the 'bad kids', or had friends who were. It's a reminder of how fun and simultaneously sad it was. I think this book would translate very well to film.
Good in an episodic way, until "something happens" at the end which was out of character with the tone and pace of the book and took what could have been a decent novel to a passable one. The author tried too hard.
This book is a series of episodes in a small group of teenage girl's lives. They meet at their private catholic all-girls school and become friends. They fight and make up, they deal with boys and dating, and they develop a reputation as "Whores" which they learn to embrace. Ultimately, the story is a tragedy, as their lives are forever changed. It is a story about friendship and fitting in and coming of age in the 1980s.
I attend the school this book is "supposedly" based off of. I found the book engaging and I do not believe it creates false stereotypes. Lets face it, all girls can be straight up weird. Of course we have some promiscuous girls. I loved the book. Not at all a porno.
This book helped prove that the real girls from the school that sacred heart holy angles evolved into don't have the best reputation. But really though, this book stays true to the area and culture of the time. all of the places and streets named are infact real in milwaukee. it was really cool to read about the theaters that the girls went to in the book seeing as they are some of the theaters i go to now. the description of the oriental theatre is exactly like it is now. The book is now definatly a fave and an easy read (i read it in a day) and all of my friends who have read agree (we're all 17-18) MILWAUKEE LOVES WHORES ON THE HILL!
I absolutely love this book, I actually just finished reading it about half hour ago. I didnt want it to end, I wanted to keep it going but hey, what can you do? Anyway I decided to write a review because I cant believe people who reviewed this book called it 'porn'. OPEN YOUR EYES!!!!!! This book is the harsh reality that is highschool, maybe not all highschools but i GUARANTEE you theres an Astrid, Juli, and Thisbe hidden in there somewhere, they just might not be as upfront. Just as personal input, I used to [and still know] some girls, who are older now, that started having sex at 13/14 and drugs then too and the whole nine yards. I havent personally but Ive been exposed to it. This book was real, and raw. I can understand where you would get the 'porn' if you are a very nieve person and you stayed as far away from the events in this book as possible and pretend we live in a perfect world. Also for that fact that it was told in great detail and some of the sexual themes were a bit strong for those of you who arent used to that or object to it. Look, before I write a novel here myself, Id just say if your in the mood for a book that feels real and gives a look into the lives of girls who behave this way and the consequences they face, buy it. You wont regret it, unless you were raised in the holiest of houses and were never told about this kind of stuff or whatever other excuse you may have. And hey, i might be wrong, it just might be a contraversy in taste of books... Oh yeah, one more thing.... i have no idea where some reviewers got the 'poorly written' from, this book is written beautifully in my opinion, the detail and everything, it makes you feel like your right there or you know them. I loved it.
This book had character. Something that alot of books that I've read in the past have lacked. Read it. It shows what teenagers really are like, not 'one group does this' and 'another group does that'.
This book is a bit extreme, I guess. It's what some might consider shocking or scandalous, but it is mostly truthful. It is very aware of teenage sex so some may consider it trashy and demoralizing for teens. I don't think it's persuasive towards 'bad' behavior because the characters suffer consequences for their actions, but it does shine light on 'controversial' issues. The emotions and descriptions are very powerful and the story is heart-wrenching. The characters are so alive in the book, it's almost as if you really know them. Good read if you're willing to keep and open mind and accept the reality of teenage adolescence.
This book is simply amazing. I love it, the writing style is passionate and real. The descriptions are beautiful, using sharp, unusual, vivid adjectives. There are descriptions of smell, taste, and surroundings, of the scent of a guy, the habits of a person, etc. I go to a catholic all-girls Sacred Heart school that is on top of a hill and this book intriged me when I first heard about it. It was such a coincidence that the setting was so similar to my life -however I am not a whore on the hill- The characters are real, they make mistakes, take many risks, and go totally crazy (like a lot of teenagers because they dont know what the hell is going on in life). There are problems everywhere and past the partying and sex there is a deeper meaning, of life, The confusion and helplessness of 'sheltered', wild, misguided, clueless adolescent girls. The characters are beautiful and each one fits into the story, some with much importance, and some so small you dont notice, but they all fit in. The cruel and harsh world isn't dimmed at all. Colleen does a beautiful job explaining the point of view of many different people. I love this book so much, it is beautiful, passionate and amazing. 'you could get lost in it, that easy' pg. 154
This well-written book is sure to entertain, shock and enlighten the reader. Written from the dark side, this important story could probably be happening in your own home town. If you think not, you're kidding yourself. But in the end, just remember, it's just fiction. :-)
This is my favorite book of all time. It's the story of three promiscuous teenage girls ('the new breed of girl') attending an all-girls Catholic school in Wisconsin: Astrid, the outgoing leader, Juli, the petite, fragile Dorian-Gray-type, and the narrator, Thisbe, a shy, observant redhead. At 15, they believe they can take on the world, and follow Astrid, who mothers and befriends them through sex, drugs, and of course, punk rock. Hem your skirt 3 inches above the knee and slip on those fishnets and combat boots. This is a touching, poignant, and inspiring story. But some of the reviewers are right in the idea that this will influence girls my age (15, sophomore), myself included. Although I already drank and smoked before I read this book, I now wear plaid skirts, oxford shirts, and fishnet tights, much to the dismay of my parents. If freedom and joy can be caught by believing you can have it if only you wished it, well, then I want some, too.
I liked it a lot actually. But I'm pretty sure that's because when I was younger, I had friends exactly like Astrid and Juli so it sort of just...really reminded me of myself and my old friends. And I also like how they had great music taste. I guess what I'm saying is that if you are or once were a wild child, you'll like this book. Not because it's a quality novel or anything, it'll just bring back a lot of memories.
This is one of the worst books I've read all summer. The plot is dark, the reviews are bad and the punctuation is horrible. It reads like a conversation from the 80's. The author does not seem to have spent much time actually writing it.. It feels like sloppy work.
i think its funny that people are saying that the confused girls will like this book and smart girls will just laugh, this book is touching and it really shows that girls DO experiment with bad things no matter what their parents do or DON'T do/say, this book reminds me of my cousin a lot. I hope you read this book, it is very good!
LOVED THE BOOK!! I feel this book is ment for anyone past the highschool years. Parents should moniter what thier children read. Cant wait to read her new book Whores on the hill were here..
I read this book in one day, I just couldn't put it down. I think it was beautifully written. It just really hit close to home. All teenage girls make mistakes, no matter how hard their mother's try to shelter them (or don't try.. which is the case in this novel) This is a book that I'll hold close to my heart. A very good experience for any reader.
Amazing. High school girls at their best [or worst]. This book definetely goes inside the heads of what it's like to be the non popular high school student. I found myself relating to a lot and it was just GREAT!
This is an awesome book! I was completly swept away by it! J.D. Salinger is one of my favorite writers but with 'Whores on the Hill' Curran has earned her spot right next to him on my bookshelf!!!
This is a beautifully written book about the confusion, pain and struggles of 3 teenage girls who don't fit the mold. It's funny, edgy, raw, sensitive and insightful. Makes you remember the emotional upheaval of the teen years.
This book was simply incredible! I'm not sure the last time I read anything like it. It is a beautiful statement about the feminist ideal in today's youth culture. It is so good I've bought copies for all my friends. Beware: once started it is impossible to put down!!
This enduring tale tells the story of emotionally disturbed girls looking for an identity. The author writes a very poorly written story encouraging sex, lesbianism, rape and abortion during teen years. I think confused girls will enjoy this book and smart girls will just laugh.