cover image The Bad Girls

The Bad Girls

Cynthia Voigt. Scholastic, $16.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-590-60134-4

If Thelma and Louise had met in fifth grade they might have taken lessons in bravado from Mikey and Margalo, the heroines of this tart, subversive and wholly entertaining comedy. Set entirely at school, the world that matters most to the characters here, the action begins on the first day of fifth grade as new girls Mikey and Margalo size up each other and their classmates. About six weeks later, by the novel's end, they realize they are kindred spirits-girls who have a keen interest in shaking things up and can't be bothered to act nice or docile. Mikey, who observes that she misbehaves out of anger while Margalo's badness is ""about mischief,"" is more obviously a bad girl; she punches out the class tough guy and she talks back to the teacher. Margalo, however, is the more talented troublemaker, a subtle hatcher of schemes and planter of rumors. With a few assured strokes, Newbery Medalist Voigt (Dicey's Song; When She Hollers) populates the class with full-bodied characters, and she perfectly calibrates the fifth graders' absorption in popularity and social standing. Insightful and truthful as ever, she doesn't worry about giving her wayward heroines hearts of gold. Instead, she leaves it to her audience to admire their escapades and their cool disregard for public opinion and, when readers are done laughing, to begin questioning the conventions that surround them, too. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)