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If Joyce Carol Oates remembers anything about growing up, it has to
be the intense alliances that are formed between the well-meaning
"good" child and the wonderfully free, dangerous "bad" child. The
"bad" child taunts other children with new and exciting
experiences, and introduces them to a world beyond their community
where everything is available and everyone is waiting for them.
FOXFIRE is the finest novel I have ever read about teenage girls;
their relationships with each other, and the petty jealousies that
threaten to destroy the otherwise tightly woven fabric of their
love. It is one of the most fully realized books she has ever

Maddy leads a grim existence with her friends in a tiny industrial
town where poverty is prevalent. A natural-born writer, she
remembers the arrival of Legs, a delinquent from the wrong end of
the wrong side of the tracks who suddenly bursts upon the local
high school. Legs doesn't come from a good family, but she manages
to make Maddy and the others think that their families aren't so
hot, either. When she steals back the typewriter Maddy pawned to a
lecherous "uncle," Legs becomes the leader of a gang of female
outcasts, "Foxfire." Finding a burnt-out house in the woods, the
girls quietly leave their families and move in together, creating a
teenage wasteland, of homemade tattoos, drugs, illness, and the
occasional lesbian encounter between Legs and Maddy. Naturally,
Legs' affection for Maddy ends up tearing the group apart. Their
pubescent world of freedom and love is destroyed by the same things
that drive wedges between parents and children and teachers in the
real world.

FOXFIRE was actually made into a pretty dismal film, which,
regardless of the bungling of the story, featured award-winning
actress Angelina Jolie. But I will say that she was miscast. Legs
is an all-American hood from the '50s, sassy and street-smart, with
an endless cigarette dangling from her lips. FOXFIRE is a
remarkable book in that, regardless of the time and circumstances
of your own adolescence, you will find something here that reminds
you of your own life. You see through the girls' bravado and, as
with so many Oates books, wish that you could grab them and get
them off the wrong path.

FOXFIRE is sure to rev the hearts of anyone who reads it, but
particularly women, as it dissects our most basic need for
meaningful relationships.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on January 22, 2011

by Joyce Carol Oates

  • Publication Date: August 1, 1994
  • Genres: Fiction, Literary Fiction
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Plume
  • ISBN-10: 0452272319
  • ISBN-13: 9780452272316