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*Bad Girls Club* by Judy Gregerson- young adult book review  
Bad Girls Club
by Judy Gregerson
Ages 15+ 288 pages Blooming Tree Press July 2007 Hardcover    

For a book that is honest, intense, and vivid in its portrayal of mental illness and child abuse, look no further than the gritty, realistic novel Bad Girls Club by Judy Gregerson. It is the story of one mother’s progressive mental illness and the abuse she inflicts, both psychologically and physically, on her two daughters, Destiny and Cassidy. June’s husband also suffers, but he wants so desperately for her to get better and for the family to stay together despite his wife’s obvious problems that he becomes an enabler to the abuse and her steady decline. By being so honest and realistic, Bad Girls Club is at times a difficult read, and may not be suitable to younger teen readers. Still, it is definitely a well-written, thoughtful and accurate novel that is worthwhile to check out and hard to put down.

The novel focuses mainly on Destiny, a teenager trying to cope as best she can with her mother’s mental illness. She puts her own needs and wants secondary to keeping Cassidy safe from her mom’s rages and beatings, coming to believe that the cohesion of the family rests on her shoulders and efforts. When there seems to be small success, she is happy; when there are things beyond her control which she can’t prevent from happening but wishes she could have, if only she’d done something differently, she blames herself. By taking on so much responsibility, responsibility which should never be forced upon a child or young adult, she begins to go down the same path to insanity that her mom is on, because she can’t stop what’s happening, no matter how much she may want to do so.

Cassidy, Destiny’s younger sister, experiences the brunt of her mom’s brutality and abuse. Destiny flashes back several times to memories of the terrible trip her mother took them on to Crater Lake in the winter. This marked a turning point in all of the family members’ lives. It was when June tried to abandon Cassidy, who was just a baby at the time, by the rim of a volcano. Destiny was eleven. She ran on the ice to help her sister, and June told her she wasn’t going to leave Cassidy - she was only backing the car up.

Things don’t get any better after that for the family. Cassidy pulls strands of her hair out of her head and lets blood drip down her face. She talks to an invisible friend, Podos, whom she believes wants to cut her mom into little pieces, and asks Cassidy to watch. Destiny is the only one she’ll talk to and who sometimes can get through to her. Destiny knows that what’s happening is neither normal nor good for her and her sister, but she just wants for her mother to get better and for the family to stay together.

Her father tells them to never mention what happened at Crater Lake to anyone. Destiny finally does, to her friend Chloe. Chloe wants Destiny to get out of the situation and the house, for Destiny to save herself. Saving her mother and her family, Chloe realizes, is impossible to do. She tells Destiny this, to try to convince her, but Destiny thinks she is the only one who can help her mother and Cassidy:

“You can’t save your sister, Destiny. She’s way beyond any help you can give her.”

And I shake my head. “I can love her, Chloe. That’s all she needs. And I protect her from my mother. She hasn’t hit her in a while, and I’m teaching Cassidy how to stay out of her way.”
Bad Girls Club is a fascinating and intense look at the spiraling nature of madness and how it can suck down everyone around the person who is suffering from mental illness into a whirlpool of despair if professional help isn’t given. Sometimes, even professionals can’t do anything much to “cure” a person, and commitment of one person in a family may be necessary to maintain the mental health of the other family members, however sad a step that may be. Though the book is entitled Bad Girls Club, there are no “bad girls” in it, only two girls who want with all of their hearts for their mother to get better and their family to stay whole, two girls who try as hard as they can to make this goal happen. It’s an unrelenting book that you’ll want to read if you’re interested in this subject or if you’ve perhaps experienced similar things in you life.

Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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  Douglas R. Cobb/2008 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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