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Ugly Girls


Ugly Girls

There are very few authors writing novels or short stories quite like Lindsay Hunter. Her topics remind me just a bit of some of the themes that the Hernandez Bros. have with their ongoing, uneven and indispensable stories in the Love & Rockets graphic novel, or some of Evan Hunter’s (no relation) work, such as THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE or even LAST SUMMER. Otherwise, Hunter --- Lindsay, that is --- is a dark blast of fresh air blowing over putrid subjects only generally discussed, if at all, in polite company.

"It is a painful book to read, but is shot through with a rough and uncomfortable beauty that demands you must."

UGLY GIRLS is Hunter’s first novel following two collections of short stories. The narrative revolves around two high school friends, Perry and Dayna, the latter of whom goes by the nickname “Baby Girl.” Perry lives in a trailer park with her mother, Myra, and Myra’s husband, Jim. Myra is a functioning alcoholic who is occasionally able to drag herself into her job at a local truck stop. Jim, who may be the most noble character in the book, is a prison guard who tries to make the best of an awful domestic situation. It is telling, as noted at one point by Perry, that she and Myra moved into Jim’s much nicer house trailer when Jim and Myra got married. Myra keeps Perry on a loose maternal leash that continuously slips to be with Baby Girl.

As bad as Perry’s home life is, Baby Girl’s is much worse, living with her uncle and brain-damaged older brother, the latter of whom needs full-time care that he receives on a part-time basis at best. Perry and Baby Girl’s days are spent at school on occasion; their nights are devoted to mad romps of joyriding in stolen cars, stealing, and whatever they can get up to.

While Perry secretly pines for a relationship with a fellow classmate, she and Baby Girl are subjected to a barrage of text and Facebook messages from a “friend” who seems obsessed with meeting them. They resist these entreaties for a while, but he seemingly will not be denied. Perry and Baby Girl are unaware of how close their mysterious, enigmatic friend really is to them and the potential danger he represents. They have no idea what they’re letting themselves in for when they ultimately agree to meet him and fulfill their promise...but neither does he. There are repercussions to their brief but fateful meeting, echoing throughout the remainder of the book all the way to the end.

You may not know people like those in UGLY GIRLS, but you’ve seen them. They slide off of your visual and social periphery in convenience stores, discount outlets and fast food restaurants. They’re the working poor, if they’re able to maintain work activity at all, or people who have given up on life and on themselves, clinging to some semblance of social status by acting rude to waitresses and drug store clerks, for whom social and economic convention dictates (however momentarily) some faux subservience. There are dark, disturbing observations presented in subtle ways, about the undercurrent of lives and potential wasted on the vine. It is a painful book to read, but is shot through with a rough and uncomfortable beauty that demands you must.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on November 26, 2014

Ugly Girls
by Lindsay Hunter

  • Publication Date: November 4, 2014
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • ISBN-10: 0374533865
  • ISBN-13: 9780374533861