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Walking Naked
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'Every school has one. They are ugly or fat. They have scars or acne or birthmarks. We are mean to them. We ridicule them. We don't want to stand near them or sit next to them. Perdita was one of those.'Megan is one of the leaders of the in-group. She wouldn't dream of talking to Perdita, 'the Freak'. But when they are thrown together in detention, she finds herself drawn into a spiky, challenging almost-friendship. Megan faces an uncomfortable truth: Perdita or the group?This sharply observed, unflinching story is about the ins and outs of girls' friendships, the power of words and poetry and the painful getting of wisdom.
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About the Author

Alyssa Brugman attended five different schools in New South Wales, Australia and completed a business degree at Newcastle University. She began writing at the age of twenty-two.Walking Naked is Alyssa's second published novel. Her first, Finding Grace, was shortlisted for a number of literary awards, including the Children's Book Council Book of the Year Award (Older Readers) and the New South Wales Premier's Award (Ethel Turner Prize).She now lives in Sydney and works in public relations. Click here for Alyssa's website.

Reviews

Megan Tuw and her friends are "smart, funny, pretty: everything you could want to be," but when Megan ends up in detention with the high school pariah, Perdita Wiguiggan, she begins to learn that the Freak has something the members of her clique lack. While their surreptitious friendship widens narrator Megan's limited perspective (poetry-obsessed Perdita takes her to a university course and to her abusive home), it also creates escalating tension between Megan and her girlfriends. Though the plot is fairly predictable, Australian author Brugman (here making her U.S. debut) does create a realistic, and chilling, peer group (Megan's friends hold "interventions" to keep one another in line over matters as trivial as hairstyle, and organize a "freedom of expression" protest when an older boy is arrested for streaking). Readers will also appreciate that Perdita is not just misunderstood, but truly weird ("Keep your breath to cool your porridge, Kitty," she says when Megan tries to explain why they can't hang out at school). Though the friendship between the two never quite reaches the same level of realism, readers will empathize with Perdita, and with Megan when she is ultimately forced to choose. Into the plot, the author weaves poems, including works by William Blake and Sylvia Plath, as well as some discussion of poetry, giving her misfit character depth and putting more ambitious work within her readers' grasp. Ages 12-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Gr 7-9-Megan Tuw has always been popular and a leader of her clique-that is until she thinks her best friend, Candace, is joking about organizing a protest over some Year 12 guy getting in trouble for a nudey run (she's not joking). Then Candace starts spending more time with a girl whom Megan does not like. When she gets detention at the same time as outcast Perdita Wiguiggan, she finds to her surprise that the girl is more interesting than Candace. Readers are likely to agree as the unlikable, stereotypical clique members use one another to get whatever they think they need. In a predictable story that could have been a TV movie, Megan must decide if she wants to stay with the comfort zone of the clique or befriend Perdita and face outcast status. Readers never fully get to know Perdita as the story is told from Megan's point of view. And Megan seems clueless as to the harm done to her ("I was sure she didn't take it personally when we called her the Freak. That was just who she was"). Thus, Perdita's suicide comes as a shock to readers. To offset the contrived plot, the author intermingles poetry from the likes of William Blake and Sylvia Plath in an attempt to give depth to the characters.-Crystal Faris, Nassau Library System, Uniondale, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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