by Lindsay Hunter
review // Bud Smith
I saw another reviewer give Ugly Girls 1 star on Goodreads because they were scared of it.
They thought it was a YA novel about two adolescent girls, who are unlikely friends and get into a little trouble. What that reviewer was repelled by, will draw most people with a spine farther into the nervy, everyday trailer park terror that exists in the pages of Ugly Girls.
But as it goes, Ugly Girls isn’t YA, it’s Anti-YA.
Lindsay Hunter wrote a convincing book that is more interesting than any other plain-slice-of-life novel about adolescents I can recall. Her characters are authentically screwed up. Are unpredictable, even though they technically have curfews.
We’re hanging with Perry and Baby Girl (Dayna) for 225 pages or so, and they’re interesting as fuck. They’re not outright outcasts, who resent the cheer squad or pine for the attention of the quarterback. They’re just doing their own thing. Us against the world, kinda. Robbing stores, robbing houses, ditching class. Anything they want to do, tonight.
Books like this eat other books, don’t leave this book too close to a shitty book that can’t fend for itself.
Baby Girl and her ‘best friend’ Perry, steal cars on their own free will and set them on fire, they skip school and break into houses just for the thrill, they’re not looking for anyone’s appreciation, affirmation or respect, even. They’re from damaged homes, and they’re staying out all night just to do it, to see the twitchy sun break on the horizon. Here’s the kicker, they still go to high school the next day, just to do that too.
Perry’s family lives in a trailer park, her mom works at the truck stop, her father is a prison guard. Baby Girl, half shaved head and all, comes from a development of boring brown houses and crooked picket fences. Her brother Charles, is brain damaged from an ‘accident’. All these characters will come together as these ‘two adolescent girls, who are unlikely friends get into a little trouble.’
Beneath the story, beneath every page there’s a pulse of worry, of impending doom. Ugly Girls flies by like a thriller, with the character development, stellar writing, and misjudged 1 star YA novel review, you’d expect from a book that could steal your car and set it on fire just to do it.