Danger lurks everywhere in eleven year old Reggie's world—from the bully next door to the unwanted attentions of a creep at school. Raised by her mentally ill mother, Reggie is left to fend for herself in a rough neighborhood. She escapes in daydreams, battling aliens with her alter ego, Tough Girl.Tough Girl by Libby Heily was definitely not the book I was expecting. When I'd read the description I'd gathered it wouldn't necessarily be all rainbows and flowers, but the depths of this book went far beyond even what I'd imagined they would.
When Reggie's mother disappears, her fantasy life spirals out of control and starts to invade reality. She is hunted by a creature of her own design, and even Tough Girl is not strong enough to stop him.
Will Reggie survive long enough for her mother to return, or will her dream world take over?
Reggie's basically taking care of herself, by herself. To say she's being raised by her mentally ill mother is quite a bit of an overstatement, as her mother mostly sits on the couch listening to static on the radio. Poor Reggie spends most of her time at home wondering if she's going to have enough food to last her until the next day. When Mona disappears on what Reggie originally thought was a shopping trip and fails to return, she is left with $10 to buy food for I don't know how long and in the end has to resort to stealing from the local convenience store.
Luckily, she makes a friend in DeShawn, who often shares his food or just brings extra for her. He's kind to Reggie when so many others treat her like she's less than human. So while she's hungry, it's more or less bearable.
Her only other constant companion is Tough Girl. Her alter ego, a human on the planet Girth in the army fighting aliens. TG gives her strength when she needs it and has always got her back in trouble. A lot of the time while reading I forgot that Tough Girl was supposed to be a fictional character to Reggie. She's strong and her personality is extremely well developed.
Reggie runs in to bullies all over the story. The apartments she lives in are the bad area of town and often on weekends she hides away from the fights and the sirens that follow. She's constantly trying to make herself invisible and worried about whether or not she's going to have to defend herself from Tara the Boulder or unwanted sexual advances from some of the meaner boys in the school.
It was a quick read, once I really got in to the story I couldn't stop reading it until it was over. Reggie's story and Tough Girl's story were incredibly enthralling despite the subject matter of one side of that coin. My heart broke for Reggie with every turn of the page and I couldn't help but marvel at Tough Girl. Forgetting she was supposed to be a teenager because she was just that awesome.
I don't think I would recommend this one to a younger audience. Maybe 17 and above because of certain aspects of the story. But I would definitely recommend it as a fast and easy read that draws you in from the beginning. I'm really glad that I read it.