As the story opens, fifteen-year-old Abigail Vona spends her last night before leaving for camp sneaking out of the house, drinking, fooling around with an older guy and then spending the night with her boyfriend, who is on house arrest. When she arrives in Tennessee the next day, she finds that what her dad called “summer camp” is actually a level-three mental health institution for troubled adolescents. She can’t believe that she’s been left with these “crazy” girls when she was just misbehaving like a normal teenager.
Abigail’s narrative has a sense of immediacy that allows the reader to live through these events alongside her. You feel her sense of betrayal after her dad leaves her with the staff of The Village and sympathize at both the big and small injustices of the first few days. Flashbacks detail Abby’s descent into trouble and the final events that led to her commitment. To add another side to the story, the author acquired her treatment file from The Village and includes excerpts within her work. Over time, we learn along with Abigail that she is depressed, addicted to stealing, and has an unhealthy relationship with her mom. Once she has come to terms with these facts, she truly begins her recovery.
The Village’s treatment tactics seem harsh at first to an outside observer, but the final results show that every action and every consequence is carefully chosen to rebuild girls with troubled lives. While this memoir naturally focuses on Abby, we also get to know the other girls at The Village and share in their breakthroughs and setbacks. The girls who she first thought were “crazy” become the best friends she’s ever had. This becomes especially clear during a visit home, when she realizes the emptiness of the time she spent with her former friends and the shallowness of their own lives.
Abigail’s experiences serve as a powerful example of facing life’s problems and emerging stronger for the experience. Bad Girl is an inspiring story from a promising young author. You just might never look at a “trouble-making” teenager in the same way again.