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Done Dirt Cheap by Sarah Nicole Lemon

Disclaimer: I read this book as an advance copy from Netgalley. My thanks go to them, to Abrams Books and the to author, Sarah Nicole Lemon, for this opportunity. The opinions stated in the review are my own.

This is one of the more intriguing YA books I have read in a long time. Initially I selected it for the cover image but found the writing style, characters and plot worked together brilliantly. The writing style is somewhat jarring at first but when  I became more attuned to it as I read and it has a great rhythm and vividness. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions throughout the book of the mountainous landscapes and of the town resting in the wilderness. A lovely reminder that a place can seem so peaceful and yet be so noisy and fierce. The setting connected the dual components of the location to this story of order and chaos, delicate relationships and blunt brutality.

The book centres on the two female characters, Tourmaline and Virginia. Tourmaline is the daughter of the president of a local biker gang, who she insists are just a club. She keeps her distance from people while working very hard to make her life looks perfect. While looking forward to starting college in a few months, Tourmaline is struggling with the events that resulted in her mother's incarceration. Virginia is working for a local lawyer, a man uses his knowledge of the law to break it, after her mother 'sold' her into his debt to repay legal fees. Hazard, the lawyer, wants Virginia to infiltrate the biker gang and she chooses to do this by befriending Tourmaline. Each girl wants something from the other but their experiences change things and the beginnings of an authentic friendship develops between the two. A friendship that is often tested and bruised in the course of the book. 

Virginia's character is tough but vivid and bright, Tourmaline is more murky, twisting. I struggled to get a grasp on her character at times, she pushed so hard to be a certain way so it made sense that she hid things from herself as well as us. Portraying the loss of an innocence can be hard to write but it was done very well by Lemon. Her motives are not clear to us or herself, she is however very clear on her boundaries. Virginia is a young woman whose focus is survival, with one eye on what failing at it would entail. It struck me that the end goals weren't laid out clearly but the underlying desire of two different outcomes were clear in both girls' minds. I really enjoyed how this relationship developed throughout the book. Virginia's romantic entanglement was more complex and compelling to me than Tourmaline's but both rang true. The unfolding of the plot was given good balance with the development of relationships and the ending of the novel was ultimately very satisfying. 

The following line needs including in this because it works perfectly in a devastating scene it also say something that is important to emphasise in YA literature:

'We're friends because when girls - women - are alone in this world, they're easier to pick off.'

For fans of: Blake Nelson, Laurie Halse Anderson.


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