Girl in a Bad Place by Kaitlin Ward (review)
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Reviewed by
Ward, Kaitlin Girl in a Bad Place. Point/Scholastic, 2017 [272p]
ISBN 978-1-338-10105-8 $17.99
Reviewed from galleys Ad Gr. 7-10

Mailee has a devoted boyfriend and happy parents, while her friend Cara is dealing with relationship dysfunction and grief for the loss of her younger sister. Cara seems naturally organized and sensible while Mailee is scattered and emotional, but she fails to see that Cara’s need for structure is a symptom of a deeper vulnerability. When Cara becomes attracted to a cult, Mailee misses the signs until it’s nearly too late. The underlying character psychology gets it right, even though Mailee’s narration does no more than skim the surface with her talky, self-centered worries over losing her long-term best friend and her craving for experiences that will expand her emotional range. This lack of deep insights or artful prose enhances her everygirl persona until the climactic end, where Mailee suddenly turns into a fearless badass who saves the day after she’s made some monumentally bad errors in judgment. The cult leader’s motives and methods are less plausible, but since he’s clearly unhinged, the realism of his quest is ultimately less important than the what-would-I-do-in-that-situation experience the book provides for readers.

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