You Know I’m No Good

HarperCollins/Quill Tree. Oct. 2020. 320p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062957085.
Gr 9 Up–In therapy, 17-year-old Mia Dempsey refers to her first sexual experience at 14 as a “crusty old wound,” but it was rape. Mia thought that because she didn’t say no, she had given consent. But she didn’t give consent, and Scottie Currie, a senior, didn’t stop. He also didn’t stop his friends from bullying Mia mercilessly after the fact, until she started skipping classes and trading her education for “the chalky, numbing pop of cocaine.” For three years she hung out with boys who drugged and assaulted her, all stemming from the first event, says her therapist, because “humans are often unconsciously drawn to the repetition of painful experiences.” That’s a clinical explanation for a shocking reality that too many young people experience. Denial is the core narrative of this novel. Harsh and unblinking, this is the story of one smart, tough, and funny girl who acts out, until she gives her stepmother two black eyes and winds up at Red Oak Academy, where the privileged send their troubled daughters. A few of them begin to heal: For Mia, getting better involves imagining something better for herself. It’s a nearly impossible task, but her therapist, a new friend named Vera, and her parents believe that she can do it. The book features Mia’s lengthy—and compelling—reading and listening list, ranging from Joy Harjo, Sylvia Plath, and Danez Smith to Kesha, Cardi B, and Amy Winehouse, from whom Foley has borrowed the book’s title.
VERDICT An instant winner, reminiscent of the classic Speak, with a caustically funny and searching teen protagonist who’s in denial following her rape at the age of 14.

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