cover image Reckless, Glorious, Girl

Reckless, Glorious, Girl

Ellen Hagan. Bloomsbury, $16.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-5476-0460-9

This spirited, sometimes uneven verse novel follows 12-year-old Bea’s angst and joys as she transitions to middle school: “It’s the saying goodbye to the old me/ while having no idea/ who the new me even is just yet.” Hagan (Watch Us Rise) roots the narrative in small-town Kentucky, sketching Bea’s home life and the tension between her “country smarts” namesake Mamaw, an avid gardener, and her buttoned-up widow mother, a nurse. Chapters describe how Bea is “Part Mamaw & Part Mom” and delineate the relatives’ one shared trait: “Neither of Them Listens.” Pacing varies across free verse chapters, with Bea’s voice losing power when recounting her emotional state without evidence (“Everything feels so heavy”). But observations about how people view her Kentucky home ring true (“They see small towns/ where I see everyone I know”), and scenes of dramatic action excel—especially a swim team relay, the jockeying of new friendships against old, and excruciating moments of embarrassment. Hagan’s intergenerational family story offers an engaging slant on familiar early adolescent growing pains. Ages 8–11. [em](Feb.) [/em]