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The Good, the Bad and the Suicidal

by Beth Goobie

“Ever feel as if the cosmos farted and you were born?” are the opening first words of 16-year-old Dariel in The Good, the Bad and the Suicidal. This girl knows exactly who she is – a leftover SWFF, as in Single White Fat Female. Thankfully we get to meet a teen heroine who’s not wallowing in an identity crisis or perpetually whining about her impossible hair. Dariel is straight up and hilarious, a kid with more than one opinion for every occasion. Hers is a small world. There’s just her single chain-smoking social worker mom, who’s gorgeous, forgetful, and intensely loving, and Lorna, her cousin and best friend, a compelling and sweet kid, sadly adrift. These are characters to embrace and hold.

Trouble is, Dariel’s small world is in a small town where the school is rife with gangs, suspicion, and the hypertension of too much misfiring testosterone. The town council overreacts and imposes a 9 p.m. curfew to stifle gang activity. Then things really heat up between The Jocks (rich kids), The Irregulars (buzzcuts and tattoos), and The Leftovers (all the rest). Although the book’s promotional blurb describes how Dariel mobilizes student opposition that ends up exposing adult hypocrisy, the story is much more richly textured than that. It largely avoids the standard teen-versus-adult clichés and eventually settles into the more intriguing issue of us-versus-us. Dariel makes a pile of mistakes and gets squeezed in a vise between the two rival gangs. There are no pat answers and Dariel is no pat heroine.

Beth Goobie is a poet and award-winning YA novelist who skillfully locks on to Dariel’s sharp and effervescent humour throughout. There is the inevitable pause two-thirds of the way through when Dariel is in real danger and readers may want to scream, “Just tell your mother!” That, and a resolution that may be a bit too over-the-top, do not detract from the entertainment value of spending some quality time with Dariel Bosma and her small world.