Vicki Allen's For Molly seems to defy genre pigeonholing. The first half of the novel could fit on the young-adult shelves, alongside, say, Lurlene McDaniels' many young-love-thwarted-by-premature-death stories. At its midway metamorphosis, it might be prudent to hike it over to the strictly romance stacks. By story's end, it seems to want to be nothing else than a mainstream successful coming-of-age tale. Readers drawn to the unabashedly romantic, but who are unafraid of multiple splits in a novel's personality, are For Molly's mostly likely target audience.
Ashley Stewart, the novel's heroine, is a feisty high school girl living in small town Louisiana. The lovely only child of loving parents, she's got a circle of loyal friends, including one young man who'd like to be something more to her. But Ashley stubbornly avoids dating anyone despite the "Ice Princess" nickname her friends have only half-jokingly bestowed on her. That all changes when Jimmy Moreau moves to town. The sterotypical high-school hussy gets her hooks into Jimmy first, but Ashley is undeterred. Soon, she and Jimmy are in the throes of teenaged love.
The couple decide to attend the same college after graduation. But when a horrible car accident destroys their young dreams of a lifetime together, Ashley cannot bring herself to carry through with her end of the plan. She decides to follow her childhood friend Kate to Northeast Louisiana University in Monroe. It is there that she meets Rick LeNoir, the handsome and ambitious man who will bring even more grief into Ashley's young life. Ironically, he will also be partially responsible for bringing her her greatest joy.
For Molly betrays its first-novel status early on. Not that all first novels could be better; this is just one of those that seems to have been written by someone with more passion than ability. The heroine, touted by the publisher as "a typical small town girl," is at times nauseatingly perky. Too often, characters are introduced by clumsy expository paragraphs that read like personal ads. We aren't even introduced to the title's "Molly" until over two-thirds of the way into the story. And Ashley's decisions, particularly those which keep her too long in an abusive relationship, don't seem justified to the reader. Vicki Allen says in an author's note that she wrote the first 100 pages of For Molly when she was fifteen, not completing the manuscript until she rediscovered it 16 years later. It shows, but so does Allen's perserverance. Perhaps, with this one out of the way, she'll be able to write a more mature novel her second time out.