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Tough Girl Kindle Edition
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|Length: 225 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
|Page Flip: Enabled||
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Although the protagonist here is 11 years old, this is NOT an MG (Middle Grade) book; Young Adult, perhaps.
Reggie lives with her tuned-out-of-life mother, Mona, in a small, filthy studio unit in The Apartments. We first meet Reggie as she is attempting to get even with Tara, the girl who bullies her at school, but someone spots her, and once again, she gets her tail handed to her, ending with a big dose of bug spray in her mouth.
Being from The Apartments was already one strike against her. Having a mother who is mentally ill, who sits most days staring into space and listening to a clock radio tuned to static, who once made a public appearance wearing nothing but shoes and a short jacket (probably raped), when Reggie was in 4th grade has marked her as a permanent target. Crazy mother, the whispers follow her, and now, Bug Girl.
Now in middle school and sixth grade, her only friends are Leon, at school, and Tough Girl, her alter-ego/fantasy creation. TG, with her blue, spiked hair, is in the Intergalactic Army and has missions on water worlds, and fire worlds, an assassin and soldier extraordinaire, killing monsters and bad guys alike, sometimes getting hurt, but always surviving in the end, and showing up to encourage Reggie on, just when she feels like giving up.
Then Mona disappears one day, and Reggie does what she can to survive, living off mustard-and-bread "sandwiches," stealing food from local markets, dumpster diving at McDonald's. Eventually, she makes more friends; DeShawn, also from the apartments, and the new upstairs neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Ruiz. Mrs. Ruiz weighs about 600 pounds and is trying to gain more weight for a beauty pageant.
The story weaves between what is really going on in Reggie's life, and Tough Girl's adventures on Planet Girth. Only the line between reality and fantasy is thin, and things aren't always what they seem. And when Leon attacks one of Reggie's tormentors with a hammer, she is racked with guilt.
Beautifully written, I could not put it down, and was aching with sympathy for Reggie, while at the same time, filled with admiration for her and Tough Girl.
Why four and not five stars. Two areas where I was left wanting more. First, the character development of the secondary antagonists left me needing to know more about them and their thinking. Second, the conclusion, while satisfying on many levels for this story, felt incomplete. There were many loose ends that I wanted to see resolved.
Eleven-year-old Reggie's life is beyond tough; that's why she counts on her imaginary alter-ego Tough Girl to help her survive. The brutal bullying she endures at school pales in comparison to the harsh reality of her home life, where she shares a filthy, sparsely-furnished apartment with her mentally ill mother. Then Mom disappears, and Reggie's struggle to survive gets even harder. And much much scarier.
Fantasy and reality swirl together in a dizzying blend, making it difficult at times to discern which is which, but no matter how vivid Reggie's fantasy world is, it can't fill her growling stomach. Is she... tough enough? Can she survive?
You'll have to read the book to find out the answer to that question, but I guarantee you of one thing: this book will make you ache for this child.
The greatest achievement by the author is in remembering, and making the reader remember, what it is to be children with our imaginations unfettered. This is the hook that Libby Heily sets in us during a strolling introduction to Reggie and TG's shared lives. A hook which then pulls us into a series of twists and crises that we now feel as a child would - and that is very scary. This book will make your heart sore, will make you thankful for stale pb&j sandwiches, will make you want to put it down like a kid pulling the sheets over her head, will make you pick it up again because Reggie has to go to school in the morning. It will make you hug a child. Really, it's quite good.
OK for YA readers? Yes, If. Yes a young reader could get a lot out of this story and connect to it in ways adults may have forgotten. However, there are referenced adult themes, social ills, violent events and a smattering of adult language use. IF your YA reader is mature, and or you are prepared to read with him or her and discuss the events - then I highly recommend it!
Most recent customer reviews
I kind of feel like I've just woken up from a very bizarre dream, the real and fantasy worlds of Reggie's blurred...Read more