Neighborhood Girls by Jessie Ann Foley (review)
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Reviewed by
Foley, Jessie Ann Neighborhood Girls. HarperTeen/HarperCollins, 2017 368p
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-06-257185-4 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-06-257190-8 $9.99 R Gr. 7-10

When Wendy Boychuck’s father was arrested for brutally abusing his power as a Chicago police officer, Boychuck became a household name shellacked with shame. At first, high school junior Wendy depended on Alexis, her quiet, studious best friend, to help her through the public humiliation, but when Wendy was savagely beaten by a classmate, she dumped Alexis for Kenzie, the meanest girl in school, and the protection she offered. Now Wendy overlooks Kenzie’s faults and relies on being friends with the girl nobody challenges—but when Alexis unexpectedly fights back against Kenzie’s bullying, what will Wendy do? Foley creates narrative intimacy through a textured mix of high school drama, family dynamics, ripped-from-the-headlines scenarios, a richly drawn setting, hints of the supernatural, and heartfelt grief. Wendy’s ambivalence toward the dehumanizing effects of the life she has chosen is held up to scrutiny by her reflections on the icons of her faith (she finds sanctuary in her Catholic school) as well as on other girls from her neighborhood who had lost their lives over the years and yet live on in superstitious lore. If the nuns at her school are occasionally objects of teen ridicule, they are also multifaceted and admirable; in fact, with the exception of Kenzie and her crew, the young and old women in this book represent levels of strength, conviction, and faith that create an ethos of forgiveness and hope for Wendy. This compelling portrait of real life, with all of its messes, mistakes, and compromises, will inspire girls to see their ordinary neighborhoods in a new light.

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