Friday, July 29, 2011

Pretty Bad Things


Pretty Bad Things is a YA contemporary novel by C. J. Skuse.

Ten years ago, when Paisley and Beau were six-years-old, they became famous. But not for being child actors or anything. They became famous because after coming home to find their mother dead, they wandered off into the woods trying to find their dad, whom they did not know was already in prison, and survived for three days alone. The paparazzi called them the Wonder Twins - and everybody loved them.

Their grandmother, who took custody after they were found, built up quite a trust fund for Paisley and Beau by keeping them on TV as much as humanly possible - strictly requiring they act sweet and innocent at all times, and keep the camera on as much as it was available. A trust fund she liked to dip into...

But Paisley was too much trouble to keep around, so their grandmother shipped her off to what ended up being multiple boarding schools and kept Beau at home - the act of separating the twins adding to her cruelty.

And now, both sixteen, Beau finds out that dear-old-Grandma has been keeping their dad's letters from them. The housekeeper, feeling it was wrong, kept them in a box instead of burning them as instructed. When Beau tells Paisley that their dad has been keeping in contact, she ditches school and jacks their grandmother's Pontiac - and the two take off to Las Vegas, the last place their dad mentioned being after his release.

Only problem? They can't find him. So, Paisley concocts a plan to get their faces on TV again - and help their dad find them. A plan that involves a stolen gun, donut shops and candy stores, and a familiar slogan - the Wonder Twins...

Pretty Bad Things introduces us to two very distinctive voices, alternating the narrating between Beau and Paisley. Both are very damaged and sad in different ways - and inextricably linked by their experiences and love. Paisley's the wild child potty-mouth and Beau is the gentler, perhaps doormat other half.

The novel is feisty, wild and adventurous - delving into disturbing and frank places that aren't always pleasant or fun. I had initially thought that Pretty Bad Things was going to be a crazy, entertaining story - and it is, in part. But a larger part of the book is dark, bleak, and upsetting.

I wanted these two to find a better home and chance to be taken care of by someone who loves them. Especially poor Paisley whose mask of toughness and refusal to ever cry is so very hard to keep up. But at times I found Pretty Bad Things hard to read, because what they do and how they do it isn't something I can stand behind or root for.

Yet by the end, Pretty Bad Things was surprisingly poignant and touching - perhaps even quite good. Just not what I was expecting. So, don't expect a funny jaunt when you pick up a copy. I'm still rather polarized about my opinion - create your own!

***BIBLIOPHILE ALERT! I have been reading like an even crazier book addict than usual this year, and apparently three reviews a week can't keep up pace with me! Because of this, for the entire month of July I will be having FIVE reviews a week! That's right! Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday! So, please remember to check back here more often during July - and come August I'm planning on returning to three reviews a week. Keep the schedule change in mind, and don't miss any reviews! :)

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