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.
Reggie is not like most eleven year old girls. Her free time is spent reading science fiction, scavenging for food, and taking care of her mentally unstable mother. There's a violent streak in her neighborhood and she's well aware of how quick things can get out of hand.
Reggie leads a double life. Most of the time, she's a sixth grader hell bent on living under the radar. Whenever possible, she's the master of a dream world rich in chaos, violence, and rewards. In real life, she is struggling with bullies, blossoming into womanhood, falling in love and finding enough food to eat to stay alive. In her dream world, she is working to maintain control.
Below is an excerpt from the novel. This is one of my favorite scenes. Reggie is listening to her new neighbors talk. Mona has just started moving around the apartment, a sign she is getting better.
Her neighbors’ conversation was drowned out by the harsh static of the radio as Mona pushed it to the maximum volume.
“Mona, no!” Reggie ran over and turned the radio down. Mona’s eyes were bright and alert now.
“We’ll get in trouble if you turn it up too loud.”
Mona scooted back into the couch, her knees tucked to her throat, arms anchored around her shins.
Reggie sat beside her but far enough away to show she had no intention of touching Mona. “We need groceries.” She was ready with a speech about how long it had been since Mona had left the couch and how she’d have to report to the school that she wasn’t eating at home if Mona didn’t buy them groceries. She decided to skip the speech when Mona buried her face in her knees. She was coming back slowly but pushing her now was not a good idea.
“Come on, better go out for a while,” TG said.
“Yeah. Guess you’re right.”
They ended up behind the McDonald’s. Reggie had kicked around the neighborhood, coasting from the library to the dollar movie theater and back again until the sun went down. Now, she was knee deep in the McDonald’s dumpster searching for half eaten burgers.
“You’ve changed the story.”
Reggie tore open another bag, refusing to look up at TG. “I know. I wanted a change.”
“I liked the Intergallactic Army. I liked the war.”
“You’ll go back.”
“I don’t like my new role.”
“You think I like mine?” she said through a mouthful of cold french fries.