In fourth grade, Abby is a social outcast obsessed with the new movie, E.T. But when the only one to show up to her birthday party is Gretchen, their friendship quickly blossoms. Over the years, even as Abby's family is descending into financial ruin, their friendship grows stronger. Eventually, they form a foursome with two others girls in their class and are inseparable. After a night of drinking and drug experimentation goes wrong, Abby struggles to make sure that Gretchen is alright, but it seems like the strange occurrences happening to her friend are just the beginning.
What I Liked
- The Mind of a Ten-Year-Old: I thought that Abby's voice when she is ten years old was one of the most accurate depictions of a child's mindset I have ever seen in a piece of writing. I was reading this week's section out loud to my husband and we could not stop laughing. It was the perfect beginning to the novel, it captured our interest, bonded us to the characters, and set up the type of humor that Hendrix has sewn into his novel. It is also worth noting just how well Hendrix writes from the point of view of a child while at the same time making sure that the first few chapters don't read like young adult or children's fiction.
- Family Drama: Don't get me wrong, it is very sad and torturous to read about Abby's family's money problems, but it is also extremely well written. Hendrix builds up the drama of this conflict while at the same time not making it a primary focus. It is also an interesting contrast between Abby and the rest of her friends, who all come from more affluent families, especially when we see moments such as the description of Abby's bedroom, when it becomes clear that Abby does not intend to sit back and be a victim. Instead, she decides to make things for herself.
- Gretchen's Darkness (Both Before and After): When we first meet her, Gretchen is an incredibly sweet, innocent character. Before the event, we do find out that she harbors a darkness as well, specifically geared towards her parents. These dark moments perfectly set up her eventual possession, and boy was that moment amazing! The scene in the woods is terrifying in a deeply psychological way, and though we didn't get to see too much more of the affects the possession is having on Gretchen, I am very excited to read what will happen next.
- The Girls: I loved this group of friends! Of course Abby and Gretchen are the main characters, but the dynamic between these two and Margaret and Glee is great. We could have been given the stereotypical view of female friendships, but instead I think we get something much stronger and more realistic. These girls are raunchy and fearful and, at times, sexual. They swear, smoke, and drink and in our society, especially the society of the eighties, this was not how girls were supposed to act or be seen. I also thought it was important to note the moment on page 44, "it would be all of them at once or nobody at all. That's how they did everything,". Later, they are also described as "desperate to be an individual, but...terrified to stand out," (83). I found this really interesting. These girls are the daredevils. They are the "first" girls, they break boundaries, but always together. Due to this they get to be both. They are individuals and move beyond barriers, but because they always do it together, they maintain their "safe" space, they never do anything truly alone and they can use this to their benefit. It's the perfect insurance policy, no matter what they do they won't be outcasts.
What I Didn't Like
- The Beginning: The first page or two are set in current day and follow Abby. It's not a bad beginning, obviously I'm still a fan of the book as a whole, but it just seemed a bit lacking and the switch was very extreme. I've actually forgotten it entirely multiple times, it just wasn't very memorable and didn't set us up for much, especially in comparison to the second chapter and onward.
- Abby's Dad: Abby's dad seems like a deadbeat, and we don't get much context as to why. I just wish that we knew a bit more about him, especially since it seems like he is almost solely responsible for his family's financial decline.
- Wait so now they're friends with Margaret? Okay I had to flip back and skim when I got to the part where they are revealed to be friend's with Margaret. This girl was the ten year old equivalent of Satan's spawn...and I still love their friendship but it would have been awesome to see the event that finally swung them from hating each other to being friends, like we did with them and Glee. I'm still hoping that we will get maybe a flashback later on in the reading.
Quote of the Week
"Why wasn't anyone helping her? She never knew what caused it, but at that moment, Abby changed. Something inside her head went 'click' and the next second she was thinking differently. She didn't have to be poor. She could get a job. She didn't have to help Glee. But she could. She could decide how she was going to be. She had a choice. Life could be an endless series of joyless chores, or she could get totally pumped and make it fun. There were bad things, and there were good things, but she got to choose which things to focus on. Her mom focused only on the bad things. Abby didn't have to," (38).
- What do you think of the group dynamics between Abby, Gretchen, Glee, and Margaret? At times they seem both affectionate and antagonistic to each other. Do you think this is just the nature of their friendship or are their other aspects at play here?
- This novel blends both adolescent drama, comedy, and horror story. Do you think it's a perfect blend so far, or do you feel that it leans a certain way? If you had to assign it a genre (ie, Young Adult Fiction, Horror, Thriller, Dark Comedy) what would you give it?
- Anything else you noticed that wasn't mentioned here that you would like to bring up for discussion? Let us know!