Book Review: You Know I’m No Good by Jessie Ann Foley
This razor-sharp novel from Printz Honor winner and Morris Award finalist Jessie Ann Foley will appeal to fans of Rory Power and Mindy McGinnis.
Mia is officially a Troubled Teen™— she gets bad grades, drinks too much, and has probably gone too far with too many guys.
But she doesn’t realize how out of control she seems until she is taken from her home in the middle of the night and sent away to Red Oak Academy, a therapeutic girls’ boarding school in the middle of nowhere.
While there, Mia is forced to confront her painful past at the same time she questions why she’s at Red Oak. If she were a boy, would her behavior be considered wild enough to get sent away? But what happens when circumstances outside of her control compel Mia to make herself vulnerable enough to be truly seen?
Challenging and thought-provoking, this stunning contemporary YA novel examines the ways society is stacked against teen girls and what one young woman will do to even the odds.
The thing about 2020 is that it’s hard to find joy in anything or to be able to concentrate on anything. One afternoon, I picked up this book, read two pages, and put it down. It was immediately clear to me that this book was not for this day. I needed something lighter. Something different. So I set this book aside for a week, then came back to it. I knew I would. I’ve loved Foley’s other books and think this one may be her best yet.
Mia, who’s “gifted” and really smart, likes writing “almost as much as [she] likes cutting class to smoke weed in the parking lot behind the bankrupt Sears at Six Corners” (pg 4). She calms down her overactive brain with books, drugs, and boys. Books rarely do harm, unless you throw them hard enough, but drugs and boys prove to be toxic choices. Mia’s big thing is acting like she doesn’t care. Hardly a revolutionary attitude to cop as a teenager, but while it may be derivative, it gets her through. Mia’s run out of second chances, and her dad and stepmom ship her off to the wilds of Minnesota to get some help. It’s a traumatic departure—she’s essentially kidnapped—and suddenly all of her vices are gone and she’s left with just her own self and a bunch of other “troubled” girls.
It’s here that Mia beings to really think about herself, her choices, what’s happened to her, and what she wants out of life. Many of these ruminations are spawned from therapy sessions, but Mia has long been in therapy. It’s only here, now, that she seems able to actually hear what she’s being told and truly understand her life. She grapples with wondering if she’s “bad” or just “not good.” How does her mother’s murder, when Mia was only 3, fit into her life, really? Is suffering and trauma hereditary? How should we deal with difficult women?
At home, Mia didn’t have real friends, just people who could hook her up with stuff or get into trouble with her. But at Red Oak, she actually connects with some of the other girls, sharing their pain and secrets. Mia beings to see how she’s been used by boys and hurt by girls and women. Finally facing some painful realities (including the understanding that her first sexual encounter was rape), Mia starts to see that she deserves better, that she needs to fight, to stand up for herself. And, most importantly, she needs to be the one who defines who she is, not rumors or bad choices or the names she gets called. She is more than just what has been done to her, or what’s been said about her, or what she’s done. Unfortunately, healing is rarely linear, and Mia takes a big swerve off her path of progress when she and another girl run away from the facility and have to figure out what they truly want in life.
This is one of those great books that manages to be both devastatingly sad and hopeful. Mia is a fierce character who works hard to keep her walls built up around her, but experiences real, believable growth over the course of the story. She is flawed, vulnerable, and resilient. A really moving look at trauma, choices, recovery, and healing.
Review copy (ARC) courtesy of
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/13/2020
Age Range: 14 – 17 Years
Filed under: Uncategorized
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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