Sunday, February 13, 2011

YA Fiction: Badd by Tim Tharp

Badd opens with the story of sixteen-year-old Ceejay McDermott. She and her older brother, Bobby, are b-a-d-d. They're tough. They don't let anyone push them around and they can be a bit on the wild side sometimes. Ceejay and Bobby have always felt out of place in their small-town family: their parents are perpetually cheerful, energetic church-goers; their older sister is married to an insurance salesman; their younger sister is a girly-girl; their younger brother's reality is video games. But Bobby goes too far one day, and instead of going to jail he is given the chance to join the army. Ceejay's thrilled when Bobby returns unexpectedly, but she can't figure out why he's not running straight back to the family, or to her, the other "outsider."

Basically, the book is about Ceejay's and Bobby's journeys of self-discovery. Bobby is scarred by what he witnessed in Iraq and elsewhere; Ceejay's facing the changes in her brother and corresponding changes in her perception of what makes a person truly "badd." There are several emotional scenes: Mrs. McDermott's mother, who has always been the "enemy" of Ceejay and Bobby, has terminal cancer; Bobby eventually tells all about his experiences in the war. There are funny parts, too. The siblings fall in with the appropriately-named Captain Crazy, try to build an aero-velocipede, spring a guy out of a prison-like nursing home in the dead of night...

It took me a while to get into Badd. At the beginning, I really did not like most of the characters, who seemed to enjoy a lot of drugs, sex, and alcohol (with the exception of Ceejay, who manages to stay clean while the rest of her friends party). As the story started moving along more, however, it became more enjoyable and the characters, especially Ceejay and Bobby, were much more likeable. Was it worth reading? Yes. Will I re-read it? Most likely not.

Maturity Factor: As mentioned above, there is a certain amount of sexual, drug, and alcohol references throughout the book, as well as bad language.

My ARC of Badd was received through Random House's Random Buzzers program. Badd went on sale January 11.

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