- Cherry Money Baby by John M. Cusick
Headstrong, potty-mouthed Cherry likes her life just as it is, thank you very much. She is perfectly happy living in a trailer with her gruff but loving overweight dad and her perpetually stoned brother, and she is over the moon when her boyfriend, Lucas, asks her to marry him during their senior year, even though neither has future plans other than to continue happily in their low-paying jobs. When Cherry saves Ardelia, a young British movie star filming on location in their town, from choking, though, Ardelia swoops Cherry into her orbit and introduces her to a life she never even dreamed about. When Cherry’s trailer burns down, Ardelia makes her an offer that could solve all of her family’s money troubles in exchange for her services as a surrogate mother. Now Cherry, who has only just started having sex with Lucas, has a decision to make that seems fairly straightforward until she learns some uneasy truths and realizes how far she has drifted from the girl she once was. Cherry is an irresistible heroine: she’s brimming with energy and joyful appreciation for the things that really matter, and she’s unafraid of speaking her mind, often in vulgar terms, or of suffering the consequences. Despite her protestations, she’s not immune to having her head spun a little, but her love for Lucas and her common sense never falter (though readers will no doubt cringe when she intentionally wrecks the vintage Alfa Romeo Ardelia gives her). Readers will be right there with her as she enjoys the perks of being a friend of the obscenely rich and famous while calculating the risks and benefits of each decision that would take her away from her core values. Her volitional poverty, lack of traditional ambitions, and immunity to the popularity game make her a rare bird indeed in contemporary YA, but it’s the aplomb she brings to the table that will attract readers of all classes, just as it won Ardelia.