cover image How to Be Bad

How to Be Bad

Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, E. Lockhart, . . HarperTeen, $16.99 (325pp) ISBN 978-0-06-128422-9

Three deservedly popular YA authors take turns narrating this exuberant novel, which centers on a road trip. After working all summer in their small Florida town at the Waffle House (they call it the Awful Waffle), three girls strike out for the weekend, with Miami their intended destination. The three-way collaboration pushes the authors into directions they might not have chosen individually—Lockhart's (The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks ) narrator, Vicks, is less aloof than the author's usual protagonist, and more congenial; she's less elite (she wants to be a cook) but she's just as self-assured and intelligent. Mlynowski's narrator, Mel, the diffident middle child in an affluent Canadian family, faces the same insecurities as the main character in the Bras & Broomsticks books, but she approaches them in a reflective manner. Myracle (TTYL ) tries on heavy issues: Bible-thumping Jesse can't cope with her mom's recent diagnosis of cancer. Whip-smart dialogue and a fast-moving, picaresque plot that zooms from lump-in-the-throat moments to all-out giddiness will keep readers going, and it's a testimony to how real these girls seem that the final chapters are profoundly satisfying rather than tidy. Ages 14-up. (May)