cover image The Baddest Girl on the Planet

The Baddest Girl on the Planet

Heather Frese. Blair, $25.95 (250p) ISBN 978-1-949467-16-1

Frese debuts with an impressive examination of small-town island life in coastal North Carolina. In 2013, 23-year-old Evie Austin is dissatisfied with her underachieving husband, Stephen Oden, and a year later Evie and Stephen are divorced, with Evie and their five-year-old son living in her parents’ house. The author intercuts Evie’s negotiation of single life with Evie’s memories of growing up on the island, where, at nine, she met her childhood bestie, vacationer Charlotte McConnell. As the narrative progresses, Frese toggles through the years to reveal experiences that have defined Evie’s life, among them an unplanned pregnancy at 19 with her high school sweetheart; a strange obsession with Mike Tyson, whom she met while visiting Charlotte in Ohio (“the first man to disappoint” her, after his rape conviction); and an ill-advised trip to Las Vegas with a male pen pal. As the narrative builds to the present day, Evie is faced with the choice to reconcile with Stephen or take a chance on new love. While some of the conceits feel a bit too quirky (“Bad girls make up lots of lies. Sometimes accidentally. Sometimes on purpose,” Evie pronounces, reflecting on her youth), Frese’s dynamic structure and strong voice provide engaging snapshots of Evie throughout the years. Readers will find lots to love. (Mar.)