This stark, convincing portrait of a girl struggling to live in a tough neighborhood should appeal to teens looking for realism.
Ariel, 16, finds herself living on government assistance in Vancouver’s roughest district because her mother’s severe arthritis prevents her from working. She misses her friends from her previous, far wealthier neighborhood and fears the new high school she has to attend. Ariel can’t hide in the shadows, however. She developed a large bust very early and easily attracts the attention of boys. When the former boyfriend of an aggressively nasty girl flirts with her, Ariel finds herself the victim of a vicious smear campaign. Ariel doesn’t cope well. She conceals her troubles from her mom and begins acting almost as her enemies portray her. She drinks at parties and pulls off her top, then poses topless for a sleazy porn merchant. She makes one street-smart friend who tries to warn her, but Ariel’s rebellion against her situation continues to make matters worse. The characters seem real, and Ariel’s dilemmas ring true as well. McWhirter paints an uncompromising portrait of her characters and their neighborhood. Readers will watch Ariel making bad choices, but they should understand why the frightened and confused girl acts as she does.Sensitive and effective, this small, short book is explicitly aimed at reluctant readers; if they pick it up, they will find some fine writing within. (Fiction. 12 & up)