Ugly Girls by Lindsay Hunter
Pub. Date: November 4, 2014
Source: Finished copy via publisher (Thank you, Farrar, Straus and Giroux!!)
Summary: Ugly Girls, at its core, is about the friendship between two girls, Perry and Baby Girl, and how that friendship descends into chaos, taking their world and the identities they hold dear with it. Their friendship is woven from the threads of never-ending dares and the struggle with power, their loyalty something they attend to like a pet but forget to feed. Ugliness is something they trade between themselves, one ugly on the outside and one on the inside.
Recommended for: Fans of Law & Order: SVU looking for a read with a similar feel
Baby Girl and Perry are more frenemies than friends. Though they grew up together and spend all their time with one another (usually late at night while they’re out joy-riding in stolen cars), they really don’t feel any kind of bond or love for each other. Instead, their relationship is all about power. Perry, the pretty one, and Baby Girl with her shaved head and hard attitude. Perry’s trailer park and alcoholic mother, Baby Girl’s new role as her brother’s caregiver after a motorcycle accident left him with the mind of a Kindergartner. Both of these girls are far more broken and fragile than they’ll ever admit and it’s a new facebook friend, a high schooler named Jamey from the neighboring town, that starts their downward spiral. Unbeknownst to the girls, Jamey has been talking to both of them, reaching out to both girls and now he wants to finally meet in person.
I wasn’t at all prepared for Ugly Girls. Oh I knew it would be a rough read, but it wasn’t until I was actually inside its pages that I realized the extent of it. When I finished those final sentences I felt dirty. Unwashed. Filthy. And you know what? I enjoyed this book. A lot. There was a rawness to it that almost hurt. Lindsay Hunter had no time for sugar-coating: she laid out the facts, made you really see these characters for who – and what – they are.
Prior to starting the book, I knew there would be something wrong about Jamey’s character, that he wasn’t the teenage boy he claimed to be. I’m not sure if it was done intentionally or not, but when his true character appeared in the book, I immediately knew who he was. Whether or not I was supposed to know so early on didn’t matter to me and didn’t change my feelings. In fact, if anything, it made his all-too-innocent actions seem even more appalling and chilling. There were moments in Ugly Girls that actually sickened me and for that, I applaud Ms. Hunter. That her words could have such an effect on me proves her skill as a writer.
A word of caution: don’t expect a happy ending. Ugly Girls is just that: ugly. There are no sunshines and rainbows here. Despite knowing that, I still held out hope for an ending, maybe not one that was cheerful or upbeat, but perhaps satisfying? I wanted these characters to get the ending they deserved and, for the majority of them, that meant retribution and consequences for their actions. Without spoiling anything, I’ll say I was pleased with how things ended – though I’ll admit there was a huge shock, a twist I wasn’t expecting one bit!
Ugly Girls lays everything out in the open from the very beginning. There’s no glossing over or pretty little bows. Instead, this is a story with a stark portrayal of two unhappy and bitter girls. There’s no one to root for, no team to cheer on. At times overwhelming, and without a doubt tough, Ugly Girls held me captive. Despite the gritty feeling I had when it was over I enjoyed this one immensely and I do recommend it – though have a sappy love story on deck. Trust me, you’re going to need kitten videos by the time Ugly Girls is through with you.