cover image Haters


Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, Author . Little, Brown $16.99 (351p) I

Like the film Mean Girls , Valdes-Rodriguez's (The Dirty Girls Social Club , for adults) first YA novel offers a hip, contemporary close-up view of power struggles and social cliques at an upper-crust high school. Paski (short for Pasquala), a native of Taos, N. Mex., gets a dose of culture shock when she moves to Orange County, Calif., with her cartoonist father, who has just landed a plum animator job. The 16-year-old soon finds out that in her new environs, wealth and outer beauty seem to count for everything. ("The cars the kids drive are nicer than the cars grown-ups drive back in Taos," Paski observes when she catches her first glimpse of Aliso Niguel High.) Trouble arises when Paski's biking skills and good looks catch the notice of heartthrob Chris Cabrera, who dates Jessica Nguyen, the most popular (and feared) girl in the school. At the same time that Jessica threatens her ("Stay away from Chris or you'll be very, very sorry," the girl warns), Paski has a premonition that something terrible is going to happen to Jessica during an upcoming race. The appeal of the novel comes from the author's mix of alluring elements—exotic, well-defined characters clad in designer fashions, luxurious settings, dark foreshadowing and intensely romantic scenes. Although the ending reflects fulfilled desires rather than real life, readers will likely take delight in seeing the good guys and the bad guys get exactly what they deserve. Ages 15-up. (Oct.)