Book Talk: On "Bad Girls Never Say Die" by Jennifer Mathieu | September 2021
It's pitched as a gender-bent The Outsiders, which would probably mean a lot more to me if I'd read The Outsiders before picking up Jennifer Mathieu's 2021 release. While it's often amazing to read a retake on a classic knowing the original, I found that this story stood on its own so stunningly that I didn't really miss The Outsiders. Now if I ever read S.E. Hinton's 1967 book, I guess I'll just have to think of it as a gender-flipped Bad Girls Never Say Die.
I've read one other Mathieu book, the 2017 masterpiece that is Moxie. I loved it so much I humiliated myself on-camera for my short-lived BookTube by crowing about how great that book is. I also had the utter pleasure of chatting with the author for Ravishly. I have this brilliant memory of wandering through Central Park on the phone with Mathieu, sitting on random rocks and asking questions about her writing and past with journalism. It is one of my favorite interviews I've done, to date.
But today isn't about 2017 me or my interviewing escapades. Today is about Bad Girls Never Say Die. This book, y'all.
First things first — just take in that cover. It's so perfect for the story within the book.
Set in Houston in the 1960s, Bad Girls follows Evie, a "bad girl" who hangs with a crowd of bad girls. Until she meets Diane, a good girl from the good side of town.
I'm going to try to talk about this book with spoilers, but it's a little hard because so much of what hit me about it would give away key plot points.
But let's talk about the relationships in this book. Mathieu does a great job of crafting female friendships. At first, I was afraid the friendship Evie had with the rest of her crew would be brittle, easy-to-break.
I should have had a little faith.
Because this book, ultimately, isn't about friend groups cracking and breaking under pressure. It's about the way pressure can turn a friendship into a diamond, beautiful and impossible to scratch. It's about how life sucks sometimes (a lot of the time) but your girl gang? They'll be there for you.
It's about the way society's labels suck. Really. The girls in this book are labeled "bad" because they wear makeup and skip school and don't conform to the way their culture wants them to act. They don't talk the way the "good girls" talk and they don't comport themselves in the manner in which 1960s Houston wants them to.
But on the inside — in their hearts, where it matters most — they are loyal and fierce, they will fight for each other and they have a trust amongst themselves.
The titular bad girls of the book never say die because that's what the world wants them to do — roll over and play dead and let society dress them up and prop them up and turn them into their toys. And they don't do it.
And that's powerful. There's something so beautiful about this book. I absolutely loved it, and can't wait for it to be in the world so everyone can read it, too!