cover image Bad Girls

Bad Girls

Jacqueline Wilson. Delacorte Press, $15.95 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-385-72916-1

Wilson (The Suitcase Kid) opens this tightly written tale with a bang: 10-year-old Mandy, after being humiliated by three bullying classmates, dashes into the street and gets hit by a bus (she sprains her arm, but is otherwise fine). Mandy's first-person narrative then settles into a credible, engaging account of how she copes with the ongoing taunting from these three ""bad girls"" and with the coddling of her overprotective mother. The author compellingly demonstrates the dramatic differences in the physical and emotional development among fifth graders. Things begin to look up when Mandy meets 14-year-old Tanya, a foster child who moves into a neighbor's home. With her spiky orange hair, high heels and cropped tops, Tanya couldn't look more unlike the bespectacled Mandy, whose mother dresses her in ""stupid baby clothes"" and insists she wear her hair in braids. Despite the differences in their ages and backgrounds--and much to the chagrin of Mandy's mother--the two develop a friendship that enables the heroine to assert her individuality. Even after Tanya must move to a ""children's home"" (after she, with Mandy in tow, gets arrested for shoplifting), Mandy develops a strength and maturity that enable her to relate better to her mother and to brush off the barbs of the bullies. Shaping convincing characters, dialogue and plot, Wilson proves that bad girls can make for a good story. Ages 9-12. (Feb.)