Daily life is pretty dreary for eleven year old Reggie. She's already mastered the art of dumpster diving for scraps of food and being her own parent. Her mother, dangerously close to a full break with sanity, is of little help. Reggie has invented a dream world where she and her best friend, Tough Girl, battle aliens for glory. Life is manageable until new neighbors move in and Reggie's dream world begins to unravel.
Parents play a big role in Tough Girl. Mona, Reggie's mom, is first seen nearly catatonic on the couch. When she does begin to move around, it is abundantly clear that she is not a stable person. Reggie has mostly raised herself and now is more of a parent to Mona than a child.
DeShawn's mother also plays a prominent if brief role. Whereas Mona may not realize what is going on around her, DeShawn's mother is all too aware of the world that surrounds her and her son. She will probably come off harsh to most readers, but DeShawn's mother is a woman trying to watch out for her son in a difficult situation. She has already raised several children including one or two that were not her own. She works to support herself and her son and has no interest in seeing him make any mistakes.
Below is an excerpt from the novel. This is the first time Reggie meets DeShawn's mother. DeShawn and Reggie have just been caught kissing in the living room. DeShawn's mother has just returned from work. She sent DeShawn out to get the rest of the groceries as Reggie cleans up spilled popcorn.
She heard the rustling of the grocery bags as DeShawn’s mother placed them on the kitchen counter. Reggie picked up the last few kernels and put them in the bowl. She placed the bowl in the kitchen sink, and turned to escape.
“You need to throw out the popcorn first,” his mother said.
“Sorry.” She picked the bowl back up and poured the contents into the trashcan. She could feel the woman’s eyes on her back. She turned quickly when she heard a strange sound. DeShawn’s mother stood there, a cigarette wedged firmly between her lips. She waved a match in the air, a small trail of smoke followed it.
“Let me ask you a question,” DeShawn’s mother started.
Reggie stared at her, the bowl clutched in her arms. “Okay.”
“You a virgin?” she asked.
Reggie gripped the bowl harder.
“Good. You plan to stay that way with my son?”
His mother took a drag from the cigarette, held it for a moment in her lungs as she ran her eyes up and down Reggie. She opened her mouth and released the smoke in one ill-smelling cloud. “Good. Don’t need no new babies in this family. I raised plenty already. You decide to change your mind, you two better be safe. You understand me?”
“Good. Now put that bowl in the sink and get your little ass home. DeShawn’s got chores to do.”