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Andrea Portes's debut novel is as saucy and gritty as they
come. Set among the cornfields of Nebraska and the Southwestern
desert sands, HICK is bubbling over with all the trashy fixins of a
good old-fashioned trailer park melodrama. Brace yourselves,
readers, this book isn't easy to get through, but it sure is

HICK's protagonist is a brazen, big-mouthed 13-year-old named Luli
McMullen. She lives with her parents in a small town just down the
road from Lincoln, Nebraska. "If you threw Elvis and a scarecrow in
a blender, topped the whole thing off with Seagram's 7 and pressed
dice, you would make [her] dad," Nick. Her mom, Tammy, is "some
kind of aging Brigitte Bardot, ten years later and twenty pounds
past what might have been." A pair of selfish and pathetic boozers,
the two define neglect on all counts.

Clearly, the McMullen clan is dysfunctional times 20, and Luli's
emotional stability and physical development is consequently worse
for the wear. "Seems like I've spent my entire life poised
somewhere between boredom and anxiety," she says of her upbringing,
"staring out the window somewhere, in a quiet panic, listening to
the wind and waiting for the other shoe to drop."

Rather than stick around to watch her absentee parents get jacked
up on yet another round of drinks and yelling, Luli decides to do
what any (ab)normal teen would do --- hit the road in search of
bluer skies. On her way to Vegas, she thumbs for rides, sleeps in
ditches, and sass-talks her way in and out of grungy roadside

Eventually, she hooks up with a brassy twenty-something named
Glenda, who seems to be just about the furthest thing from a good
witch that a girl could get. Glenda takes Luli under her wing, and
together the two snort blow off the dashboard, smoke cigarettes and
rabble rouse their way through the Midwest.

Until, that is, they reconnect with Eddie Kreezer --- one of Luli's
hitched rides and, coincidentally, Glenda's ex-fling. Although
Eddie is the next closest thing to ugly, Luli is simultaneously
smitten with and repulsed by him. She flirts with him and mouths
off to her heart's content, and all seems right as rain until he
uses her as collateral for a pool game gone bad. Which seems
despicable until it gets worse. Much worse.

Under the guise of "taking her off Glenda's hands," Eddie basically
kidnaps Luli, rapes her in a field, takes her to a cabin in the
woods, ties her to a bed and screws her silly for three days until
Glenda figures out what happened and comes to rescue her.

What comes next --- a series of fast-paced scenes leading up to a
racy conclusion, Bonnie & Clyde-style --- provides
just the right kicker to an already warped narrative. Readers will
be shocked, but not surprised, to see how Luli deals with it.

All in all, HICK is a shining example of a teen outcast/roadie
rant, what with its bawdy underpinnings and never-ending
debauchery. Portes has a knack for turning a phrase (although they
seem too piled on at times), and Luli's badass yet vulnerable voice
is consistent throughout. Some readers might balk at Luli's
so-called maturity despite her young age (it seems unbelievable at
times, mainly because it's written in the first person), but most
will get a kick out of her story, if only to be thankful they're
not her.

Reviewed by Alexis Burling on January 22, 2011

by Andrea Portes

  • Publication Date: May 1, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Unbridled Books
  • ISBN-10: 1932961321
  • ISBN-13: 9781932961324