The Bitch Posse
By Martha O’Connor (We think this is her debut novel)
Reviewed by Bryan
This was one intense read….from the first page to the end, the intensity never lets up, although by the time the end is reached, enough hints have been dropped that the final scene plays out almost as expected…I say “almost” only because I had a slightly different thought about how the girls would have to finalize the secret (I expected a fire that would destroy the evidence, but Cherry would still wind up in the mental hospital dealing with the complex emotions surrounding the climax event). As a result, the ending ended up being more of an “Ohhhhh!” reaction rather than being any type of surprise or startling event . After all, there were so many eye-opening scenes prior to that, that the ending almost has to wind up being somewhat anti-climactic.
But the story itself was gripping. The girls are a complex bunch…they fall into stereotypes, but they don’t…they are likeable, but you also find yourself believing that if you knew them…you’d want to keep your distance. You feel sorry for them…and then again, you think to yourself, “they’re bringing some of this upon themselves because of the choices they keep making.”
From a purely male perspective, all three certainly sound attractive in many ways on the surface: you have the smart pretty girl; the wild pretty girl; and then the popular and pretty cheerleader and Prom Queen. I’m sure the guys would salivate after any one of the three (and I can easily picture girls from my high school days that would fit these basic surface stereotypes). All three would certainly be interesting to hang out with, at least for awhile. I get the somewhat dark feeling reading this, however, that some of the girls I think of from my days in HS may fit these girls better than I might have realized back in those days (and that’s a bit disturbing!). And after reading this, I now find myself looking at the students at the High School I find myself in now – both the girls and the boys – and I wonder, “How many of these kids are dealing with inner demons?.”
Probably a lot of them, and likely more that one would guess.
And that begs the second question, “How many are getting positive support from the adults in their lives?”
And that’s what gets me most about this story….all the “what ifs”…What if Renne’s sexual advances on her drama teacher were rebuffed, and that teacher had been more of an adult? What if Amy’s mom hadn’t left her family, or what if her father had been a stronger adult? What if Cherry’s mom was more of a parent than a best friend? And all this begs another question, “Where would any of us be without the responsible adults that shaped our lives?”
One thing about the story that bothered me was the fact that every single adult – every one of them – wasn’t responsible in much of any sense…and that included the girls once they grew to become women. The only individual that had any common sense was the 17-year-old student that shook Renne to her senses. It seemed like they lived in a world where every influential adult failed them. How often does this happen, and how many little groups exist like this one here among the families in SE MN?
Is this a scathing social commentary, I wonder? Did the adults in Martha O’Connor’s life fail her miserably as well? How well do we do (now that we’re the adults)??
Ultimately, this is a story of immense friendship. It is at once a sad story, but one with a triumph of hope. The girls may never see their friendship rekindle, but at least – at the end – there is a glimmer of hope for all three to go in new and positive directions in their lives. With their past history the future may still be grim, but it doesn’t have to be, and maybe that’s what all three needed to finally realize.
I thought it was a powerful, moving story, with a disturbing look at the way life could have been – quite easily – had I made some slightly different choices in life. It’s a great story of friendship, as I mentioned, but it’s a great story that also made me look inward, and also makes me look at others differently than I did before. Things that a book of this type should make a person do.
If you are willing to see lives portrayed at their most exposed level, where nothing is hidden, you will be rewarded with a good story about friendship and depression, horror and hope. Give it a read.