Winner of the Lee Smith Book Prize, THE BADDEST GIRL ON THE PLANET is a gem of southern fiction with an unforgettable heroine. Set against the backdrop of crashing surf off the Outer Banks, it’s heartbreaking and zany, heartwarming and wise.
Evie Austin, native of Hatteras Island, North Carolina, is the baddest girl on the planet. Or is she?
She’s rolled with the punches that have derailed her life. But she’s also made a series of train-wreck decisions that define how others see her—and she sees herself. Those decisions are captured through chapters that read like short stories, as they move back and forth through her childhood and her twenties.
At the center of everything is an old obsession with Mike Tyson, the baddest man on the planet. Strong enough to survive anything. She met him—in passing—as a child struggling to understand her parents’ separation. And yes, she may have exaggerated her connection with the famous boxer to win popularity at school, which backfired when he became a felon.
As Evie reaches adulthood, events stack up against her: pregnancy and marriage at nineteen, divorce, and a series of bad choices about men. But she survives postnatal depression and an unsupportive husband to become a kickass mother and the family breadwinner. She’s stronger than she realizes, but the bad stuff keeps threatening to take her down: unbearable loss and a disastrous trip to Las Vegas with a prospective lover.
You root for her even as you cringe at her mistakes, because Evie has a huge heart. She adores her son, her island, and her extended family: her aunt and her now reconciled parents, her big brother and his family, her lifelong BFF, and her aunt’s incontinent, foul-tempered Yorkshire Terrier (feared by everyone).
Once Evie runs out of options to avoid her pain, she learns to dig deep for her inner spunk. And rather than settle for the easy option, goes outside her comfort zone to make a decision with the power to reshape her life.
I missed Evie and her supporting cast the moment I closed the book.