Release Date: January 14th, 2013
Genre: Young Adult
Source: I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Blurb: Danger lurks everywhere in eleven year old Reggie's world—from the bully next door to the unwanted attentions of a creep at school. Raised by her mentally ill mother, Reggie is left to fend for herself. She escapes in daydreams, battling aliens with her alter ego, Tough Girl.
When Reggie's mother disappears, her fantasy life spirals out of control and starts to invade reality. She is hunted by a creature of her own design, and even Tough Girl is not strong enough to stop him.
Will Reggie survive long enough for her mother to return, or will her dream world take over?
This book contains adult themes and adult language.
Review: This was a tough book for me to read. In some ways it really hit home for me. Bullying was a major theme in Tough Girl, and it's difficult for me to admit it, but I was bullied in middle school. Even today as an adult, it's still kind of hard to go into detail about and not many people know what happened to me. It continued into high school a bit, but with a different person. I eventually moved away, but before I did that, I fought back and got revenge (anonymously) against my attacker. What I did wasn't right, but it sure made me feel better. The point of this is, this book was kind of difficult for me to read in spots. I've been where Reggie was. I didn't live in a tough neighborhood and I didn't have neglectful parents like hers, but I know what bullying is. And because of that, I would never, EVER think for a second of bullying another human being. The idea makes me sick.
The problem I had with Tough Girl though is the lack of emotional connection I felt. To the story, to Reggie, to anything really. I could relate to some of what was going on, but I never really felt like I knew Reggie and I never felt connected to her or the things that were going on in her life. I appreciated her voice as a character, because I thought that was handled and written in a very skilled manner. I did, at times, feel like she was older than eleven, but I think perhaps that was the author's intent. These kids in this neighborhood were forced to grow up fast, especially Reggie, since her mother was pretty much in her own world and unable to parent. I did like Reggie, I just felt like the author may have been holding back from making this too emotional of a storyline, and I feel like that was a mistake. The potential that was there to make this a really painful read was there, and I don't think it was taken as far as it could go.
So I'm conflicted. Because I do think it made an impact on me and I liked it. But I also didn't enjoy it as much as I could have. Towards the middle of the novel when you start to question what is real and what isn't, the book sort of lost me. And it's totally a personal preference, but that kind of book rarely works for me. I felt it was confusing at times, and though the characters were well-written, I just wasn't finding myself loving it as much as I wanted to. It's weird when you have to critique something but you don't really know what to say because you liked parts of it but others you didn't, and when you try to quantify why something didn't work for you and the words just won't come, well that's a pain in the ass.
One thing I can say that I didn't care for was how the book ended. It was too abrupt for me, anti-climactic, and the author told me what happened by summarizing instead of showing me. It happened too fast and there was not enough time to build up to the ending. It just kind of...ended.
Ultimately, I guess it was just not a ME book. It was written in a style I liked with well-developed characters, but I felt a little disconnected from everything. I think it covers a number of important topics (bullying, neglectful parents, mental illness, etc.) and handles them really well. I just was never really sure where the author was going with the story, and I was never really sure what exactly the plot was supposed to be. If you are a fan of books about tough topics, I think you might like this. There is a lot of value in this book, I just don't think it was the type of book I normally enjoy reading. I will say that the author is extremely nice and sent me a wonderful request for this novel that was personalized and meant a great deal to me. I wish all authors could be that polite and respectful.