My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Atlanta Burns is what Veronica Mars would have been if, instead of growing up in sunny California with an understanding father, she’d been transplanted suddenly into “Pennsyltucky”—the rural/backwoods center of Pennsylvania—with an impoverished lost-soul mother and no one to fall back on. Atlanta Burns is Veronica Mars with red hair, a cut lip, dirt all over her face, and the vocabulary your momma wouldn’t approve of.
The story is good, but rough, hard to take. Atlanta is still recovering from the sexual assault she suffered at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend, and her unwanted legendary status she earned with a well-placed shotgun hit to his bait-and-tackle. It is in part because of this reputation, however, that she attracts the downtrodden, the friendless, and begins to help them fight back, too.
The only thing you can really say Atlanta has going for her is grit. She’s not always the smartest girl; she’s into way more drugs than I am even familiar with, often in tandem; she makes really shitty decisions and has a hard time remembering who her friends are. But she doesn’t give up, doesn’t back down, even as she stumbles into bigger and greater crimes against those who can’t fight back.
Chuck Wendig spins a good story, but I think he inserts a little bit too much of himself sometimes, making his agenda too clear and creating a gap in the fourth wall, like when his drug-dealing lowlife happens to be a frequent reader of Margaret Atwood. I don’t disagree with his message, and, true, it’s one of these clear agenda items that makes up the overall story arch, but there were times it drew me out of the story and had me rolling my eyes.
Overall, Wendig does good work here: it doesn’t always get better. Sometimes the bad guys are too big to fight. Sometimes you’re the dog in the ring, just having to fight to survive. It’s a good story, with a hard message to swallow, but it’s a bit too gritty and intense for me. Tread carefully, readers; this is a solid book but you’re going to need a steel stomach to get through it.