Sunday, February 19, 2017

done dirt cheap: stardust arc reviews

Done Dirt Cheap 
by Sarah Nicole Lemon

release date: March 7 by Amulet Books


Tourmaline Harris’s life hit pause at fifteen, when her mom went to prison because of Tourmaline’s unintentionally damning testimony. But at eighteen, her home life is stable, and she has a strong relationship with her father, the president of a local biker club known as the Wardens. Virginia Campbell’s life hit fast-forward at fifteen, when her mom “sold” her into the services of Hazard, a powerful attorney: a man for whom the law is merely a suggestion. When Hazard sets his sights on dismantling the Wardens, he sends in Virginia, who has every intention of selling out the club—and Tourmaline. But the two girls are stronger than the circumstances that brought them together, and their resilience defines the friendship at the heart of this powerful debut novel.

full review under the cut!

I saw this book on Netgalley and requested it on a whim, since I hadn't seen much about it yet, and BOY was I in for an amazing read. I can't believe I haven't seen more people raving about this book, because it's pretty fabulous and really different from any other YA book I've ever read. I'm so glad that I got a chance to read this one, and now I am taking that opportunity and recommending it to you! If you like motorcycles, friendships that you want to be a part of, mystery, girls banding together  to rise above their circumstances, and some really steamy love interests, then this would be the book for you. It's pitched as Thelma and Louise meets Sons of Anarchy, and I think that is a really apt description. I had an absolute blast reading this one, and each page kept me so hooked.

This book is about Tourmaline Harris (which, BTW is an amazing name) and Virginia Campbell, who have recently graduated from high school and are spending the summer in their small town in southern Virginia. Both girls are from somewhat extraordinary circumstances. Tourmaline is still coming to terms with the role she played in sending her mother to jail for possession of heroin when Tourmaline was fifteen. Her mother has been in jail ever since, and as a result, Tourmaline has been sheltered and pulled closer to her father, who is the president of a local biker club that is shrouded in local legend, mystery, and fear. Virginia has been on her own since she herself was young, when her mother basically sold her to a lawyer in town to cover her DUI debts. Virginia was put into pageants by the "lawyer," Hazard, but has spent the years since using the pageants to sell drugs and do whatever else Hazard asks her to. After she graduates, she feels her position in Hazard's business life become perilous, and is attention towards her becomes dangerous. When he asks her to find a way to infiltrate the Wardens (aka Tourmaline's dad's biker club), she befriends Tourmaline with the hope of finding out the clubs secrets. Both girls are wary of one another, each of them try to stay one step ahead of the other, but the one thing they don't expect is to actually become friends. Which is exactly what happens, in a wonderful turn of events. I loved seeing the girls go from wary acquaintances to ride-or-die besties, and in the end, they didn't even hesitate to have each other's backs or forgive for things that happened in the past. I think that their friendship was truly the center of this book, and all of the drama with their families, the mysteries, and the romances are secondary to that.

I really loved how atmospheric this book was. I definitely got the distinct impression that I, too, was in the damp mugginess of a Southern Virginia summer, even though I am in South Carolina and it's winter. Lemon's prose is beautiful, and she describes things so melodically, I was just automatically drawn into the story that was being woven by these beautiful words. The one negative for this whole book, for me, though, was that, at a few points, the clarity of the story suffers a bit for the beauty of the language. I was left guessing over what actually happened, because the book kind of danced around the things that were happening. I always figured out what was happening, but it sometimes took me a minute. It's the one reason that I gave this book four instead of five stars, because I really did adore the way the story was told.

The romances were super.... hot? I guess that's the word I'm going with here. Like, steamy hot with a lot of tension building up to the moment that the two people actually acted on their feelings. Also, the boys are 5+ years older than Tourmaline and Virginia, which was fine with me since they were both eighteen, but I feel like it could be sensitive for some people, so be aware! Anyways, I personally fell in love with Cash and I claim him, but you guys can fight over Jason, no problem. I loved that there was tension with Cash falling for Tourmaline because of his precarious position in the Wardens, and I loved the give and take nature of Jason's feelings for Virginia. I loved how these boys represented something new for the club, a generation of people who have respect for their significant others and who don't underestimate them. There were some scenes where I was just so completely taken in by these slow burn romances, I just loved it.

I also really liked the mystery behind what the wardens actually did. To Tourmaline, they were just a club, just a part of her life, and she never had a reason to delve deeper into why everyone was intimidated or afraid of them. For Virginia, they are a source of town lore, something that she thought she would always be on the outside of. But when the girls come together, they discover the secrets of the Wardens and the things that they wouldn't ever want anyone to know. It ended up being a lot different than I was anticipating, so I really liked that my expectations were subverted in a good way here. I don't want to say too much here, because that would spoil the surprise, but let me just tell you that it was half what I was guessing and half really not.

Obviously, I love our protagonists, and I thought the antagonists here were really great as well. They are Hazard, who subjected Virginia to things that no girl should have to go through, and Tourmaline's mother's drug dealing ex-boyfriend, who is angry at Tourmaline for putting him in prison. They both were scary in a real life way, because any time a grown man has it out for a teenage girl, I think the fear that is felt in that situation is visceral and universal for most girls. I liked how Tourmaline and Virginia decided to take matters into their own hands and control their own fates. They didn't want for someone else to come in and protect them, they realized that no one was going to do that but themselves, and they decided to fight. It was really inspiring.

Overall, I thought this book was really great. It achieved a clear mood, built up at least four characters that I was truly rooting for, had mystery and some truly heart pounding moments, and Lemon discusses sexism, racism, familial relationships, and friendship in a way that is at once effortless and effective. I would definitely recommend this to people who are looking for a contemporary that is a little bit darker, but altogether compelling.


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