LADY

MY LIFE AS A BITCH

“A dog’s days are short, but his moments are pure.” And Burgess’s (Kite, 2000, etc.) narrative never shies from a pure canine experience in this unnerving allegory of a difficult 17-year-old. Sandra Francy covers every meaning in the dictionary for the word “bitch,” even literally being transformed into one by an alcoholic with an unfortunate magical twist. The unflinching Burgess exercises no leash in exploring Sandra’s personality, at once self-centered, cynical, vulgar, rebellious, and highly sexed. She is concerned with freely enjoying her young life, throwing advice and caution to the wind. When she changes into a dog, plainly the lure of the pack and utter freedom of a street dog’s life is little different from the life she was living. However, this is a study of human teenage psychology through a dog’s snout, and Sandra, now “Lady,” must overcome fear while balancing longings for security, her need for family, and the gradual overwhelming urgency of her canine senses. Each scene, whether as bad girl or as bitch, vibrates with verisimilitude, and in either state, Sandra/Lady is little bolstered by the cast of characters as flawed as she: her broken family, her brother whom she misjudges, her best friend, and her boyfriend, both of whom she discards for reasons rational only to a teen battling with an identity crisis. And then there are her friends in the dog world: Toby the magical alchie, and Fella and Mitch, two mutts who also were once people. The target audience may not understand some of the British slang in which Burgess steeps his prose, or why her father suddenly returns from America when she disappears. Or it might be shocked by the frank obsession with sex or even the choices Sandra makes, despite their worldly familiarity. But the shock one feels by the resolution, when the girl is at last finally and naturally true to herself, nips at the heels of the most hard-bitten innocent who refuses to stop and think life through for herself. It is that reader who must wonder and decide which side of the evolutionary fence to inhabit and therefore benefit from this intensely observed cautionary tale. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8050-7148-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2002

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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An unsettling but easy-to-read blend of social media savvy and gritty gumshoe work.

14 WAYS TO DIE

A teen sleuth tries livestreaming to catch a murderer.

Seventeen-year-old Jessica Simmons lost her mother a decade ago, the first victim of the Magpie Man, a serial killer now on victim No. 13, who has struck in locations around the U.K. Her father’s life is still in shambles and her former friends are long gone, but Jessica’s decided to publicize her tragedy. One of five contestants on YouTube’s “The Eye”—an unscripted, livestreamed reality show—Jessica asks her viewers to help identify the serial killer. But inviting the world into her home and school brings unwanted attention, perhaps even from the Magpie Man, whose body count keeps climbing: Sleuthing-related drama and peril ensue. Jessica’s friends and family are economically rendered yet believable, and Ralph renders grief beautifully and devastatingly, as something that evolves but doesn’t end. As in the story, the bulk of the action occurs when the cameras aren’t rolling, and eventually, the reality show premise and its minimally developed contestants are more a distraction and transparent deus ex machina than an integral part of Jessica’s journey. More intriguing—and with real-life precedents—is the possibility of crowdsourcing a murder investigation. Although the fast-paced finale can’t quite overcome the slow start and overlong middle, the tale reaches a dramatic, satisfactory conclusion. Characters follow a White default.

An unsettling but easy-to-read blend of social media savvy and gritty gumshoe work. (resources, author interview) (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72823-186-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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