FICTION

Neighborhood Girls

368p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062571854.
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Gr 8 Up—Wendy Boychuck knows that her junior year at the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Chicago will be a nightmare of shame after her father is convicted and imprisoned for extreme police brutality. But when she is accepted as the fourth bestie of superficially popular Kenzie, she gladly joins that circle, thinking they will shield her from the confrontations of being the daughter of a ruthless cop. Wendy abandons her true best friend, talented violinist Alexis, and takes on a false new image to fit in. Further complications and conflicts impact Wendy's multifaceted life. She ignores her father in jail while muddling through with school, a job, and a chin-up mother who is working extra hours. Wendy struggles with the academy closing and facing public school for senior year. The teen tries to meet the expectations of her supposed new friends who party and disobey rules. However, when Kenzie destroys Alexis's valuable violin, it's a well-timed and believable wake-up call. Wendy finally resolves to be true to herself by leaving Kenzie's bad-news group, reconnecting with Alexis, and contemplating a promising, unexpected romance when a foreshadowed yet still shocking tragedy flips Wendy's world. Readers will sympathize with and root for the protagonist as she steers toward several optimistic and uplifting paths by acknowledging her own scruples.
VERDICT Vibrant and convincing writing with realistic outcomes by a Morris Award finalist and Printz honoree make this a winner for most teen fiction collections.

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