criminal

Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy

Nikki loves Dee but her friends warn her about him.  Her best friend Bird is particularly worried that Dee is dragging Nikki into dangerous situations.  Since Nikki lives with Bird, because her mother is too drug addled to take care of her or make a home for her, Bird’s opinion usually carries a lot of weight.  But not where Dee is concerned.  It’s not until Nikki finds herself in a very dangerous situation where someone is killed by Dee and Nikki drives the getaway car that Nikki discovers a lot of the truths the Dee has been hiding from her.  Now Nikki is in serious trouble and Bird may be drawn into the situation as well.  Nikki has to make some good decisions quickly before her bad decision changes her entire life.  Love is supposed to be what life is all about, so what happens when you can’t count on love after all?

McVoy pulls no punches in this gripping teen novel.  Nikki is a troubled protagonist whose perspective on what is happening is clearly skewed by the sexual attention that Dee pours on her and the warped way in which he treats her otherwise.  While that relationship is at the heart of Nikki’s troubles, McVoy does not shy away from making sure that Nikki and the reader understand that while it may be a factor, Nikki must still take responsibility for her own actions.  Nikki’s legal situation and the criminal process make for a taut read, as Nikki learns about herself and the TV version of jail is shattered into one that is transformational for those willing to change.

This book can be painful to read at times, since Nikki starts so deeply into Dee’s control and lies that she is starting to disappear herself.  By the time the crime is committed, readers will be almost screaming at Nikki for her poor choices.  It becomes almost too much when she continues to defend him, not recognizing the situation he has placed her in.  Throughout Nikki is not a character to be admired, but by the end, she has become strong, honest and has learned a lot.  This is a teen novel filled with character growth that is done gradually and realistically.

Brutally honest and filled with moments of dark and light, this book speaks to false love disguised as real love and the desperate lengths one might go to for it.  Appropriate for ages 16-18.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon Pulse.