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Author S. E. Hinton’s 1967 coming-of-age novel The Outsiders told the story of a 14-year-old boy who feels like an outsider and struggles with the right and wrong in society. But now Hinton’s story is being reimagined from a female perspective by Moxie author Jennifer Mathieu.
The announcement of a new book arrives amid Mathieu’s Moxie being recently adapted into a Netflix feature film directed by Amy Poehler with newcomers Hadley Robinson and Nico Hiraga starring. Mathieu’s 2017 novel of the same name centered on a small town girl who takes inspiration from her mom’s punk rock Riot Grrrl memorabilia to create an anonymous feminist zine she distributes to her classmates.
Now Mathieu is ready to spread some female empowerment again in a new take on Hinton’s classic novel with Bad Girls Never Say Die (Roaring Brook Press). In her new book, out October 19, Mathieu introduces bad girl Evie Barnes who, along with her friends, lives by their own accord from wearing bold makeup to protecting their own no matter. However, things take a turn when Evie is saved by a good girl from the “right” side, which makes her question what it truly means to be a bad girl.
Described by Roaring Brook Press as a “riveting story of murder, secrets, and tragedy,” Mathieu offers a story with the “drama and heartache of that teen classic” but with a feminist take.
Below, The Hollywood Reporter shares an exclusive excerpt from Bad Girls Never Die.
I approach the concession stand, digging into my pocket for the few coins I got babysitting the Rodriguez kids down the street.
Mrs. Rodriguez is the only mom in the neighborhood who’ll hire me, but that’s only because she can’t afford to be all that choosy. I might have a reputation for running with the wrong crowd, but I’m good to those Rodriguez kids. I even help Nancy with her homework, which is sort of funny considering I don’t really bother with homework of my own.
The thought makes me smile, until I reach the stand, where, of course, a line has formed. The scent of buttery popcorn floats over me, making my mouth water, even though I know Winkler’s popcorn always smells better than it tastes.
“Isn’t it wild that she would even show her face here?”
“It really is, Vickie. Some people just don’t know when they should stay home.”
The voices startle me out of my popcorn dreams. Girl voices. Judgmental voices. And without even knowing who they belong to, I understand these voices have more than a few coins from a babysitting job in their pockets. Honeyed and smooth, but not too sweet.
“She looks like hell if you ask me.”
“She really does.”
“Always thought she looked so cute in pink, didn’t she?”
For a second I think they’re talking about me, but I’m not wearing pink, so they can’t be. Then I spot the voices and their target, too. Two girls from the tea-sipper crowd, the River Oaks bunch, are huddled off to the side of the concession stand, sipping sodas and staring down a pale auburn-haired girl in a light pink dress and pink cardigan ahead of me in line. The rich girls spit their poison nice and loud, so everyone hears, but it’s clear from what they’re saying who the words are really meant for.
Auburn-haired girl turns toward them, her mouth set in a firm line. She keeps her eyes fixed on the ground, but from the way her cheeks are flushing to match the color of her hair, I know she can hear them. They know, too, because they smirk in between every nasty line they toss in her direction.
I light a cigarette and watch. Normally, I wouldn’t get involved in some beef between a couple of girls from the right part of town, but then I realize Miss Auburn Hair looks familiar. Her name is Donna or Diane something-or-other, and she started at Eastside High this fall, just a few weeks ago. She doesn’t exactly fit in, that’s for sure, and her fancy clothes and brand-new school supplies mark her as more of a River Oaks girl than anyone from our neighborhood. She carries herself that way, too. Sort of snooty, I guess. Some of our crowd’s even given her a hard time in the cafeteria, bumping into her on purpose, giving her rude looks. That kind of thing. It’s just what they do sometimes to kids who think they’re better than us. I never have the guts to join in, but I sure wouldn’t ever stop them.
Now, watching this girl’s eyes start to glass over with tears, I almost feel guilty about that. This girl is already getting it pretty bad from her own crowd as it is.
“She should be ashamed to show her face around here,” the one named Vickie says. “After everything she did. Look, here comes Betty. She won’t even believe it.”
At this a short brunette with apple cheeks appears among her fellow tea sippers, and I hear Miss Auburn gasp in surprise at the sight of her. The brunette takes in what’s happening with one quick glance, and I can tell she’s trying to bury her first reaction and quick, too. She opens her mouth to say something to Miss Auburn, then snaps it closed almost as fast.
“Let’s leave,” insists the brunette, her eyes never leaving this girl in front of me who’s on the verge of tears. “Let’s just leave her alone. Anyway, the boys are waiting for us.” The brunette’s voice quavers just a bit when she says this.
A single tear falls down Miss Auburn’s cheek.
“Well, anyway,” says Vickie, turning to go, “I’m glad she’s moved out of our neighborhood and into this trashy one.” She waits a beat, then spits out, “Because she’s trash.”
When my lit cigarette hits Vickie in the arm, sending bright red embers flying, she yelps, then turns and stares me down.
“That was you, wasn’t it?” she screams, her face scowled tight. “You did that on purpose! What is wrong with you?” Her friends’ mouths are open wide like fish, their eyes wide in shock.
“Why don’t the three of you go bother someone else?” I say. “Or better yet, you can stay put while I get my friends. I’m sure they’d love to meet you.” My kohl-lined eyes don’t waver from staring them down, and my mouth forms a sneer I’ve been practicing in my bedroom mirror since last summer. But my heart is thumping hard.
Still, I’m enough to send those prissy girls racing, and Donna-maybe-Diane turns around totally to face me, gratitude all over her tearstained face. That’s how I know she definitely isn’t from this neighborhood. The kids I run with would rather die than let anyone see that someone got under their skin that bad.
“Thank you so much,” she says. “I really appreciate that.” Her voice sounds rich, too, like summer camps and European vacations. But it’s softer than Vickie’s. Nicer.
“It’s nothing,” I say, glancing past her toward the concession stand window, where a pockmarked man is waiting, annoyed, to take an order. “You’re next.” I feel bad for this girl, but she’s not exactly the type I could bring back to my group of friends.
“I’m not hungry all of a sudden. But thanks again.” She sniffs, wipes at her face, and slips off into the crowd. Hopefully she’s heading home. A girl like that shouldn’t be at a place like Winkler’s alone if she can’t handle a few nasty tea sippers.
I get my popcorn and Connie’s, too, plus a Dr Pepper, then head back. Connie devours hers while she continues to hold court, retelling her stories from the state school, adding a little extra to them with each telling. By the time the second picture in the double feature starts, Connie has the whole crowd convinced that she started a prisoner rebellion at Gainesville and they locked up the warden in a broom closet. And she hasn’t stopped pulling long swigs off a bottle of Four Roses, either.
“Where’s my brother, anyway?” Connie yells. “He needs to be hearing about everything I’ve suffered through while he got to stay around here and do whatever he wanted. Boys have it so easy. They never get in trouble as much as girls do.”
“Boys are lucky that way,” says Sunny, who’s finally emerged out of the backseat of Ray Swanson’s car along with Ray. Her honey-blond hair is mussed and her lipstick is smeared.
“I think girls get lucky, too, sometimes,” says Ray, elbowing Sunny. Sunny rolls her eyes as Dwight Hardaway and Butch Thompson, hanging out nearby, laugh at Ray’s remark. I swear, the two of them seem to exist solely to cheer Ray on when he cracks some dumb line.
“Why so quiet, Evie?” Ray says, noticing me. “Never gotten lucky?”
My cheeks flush just like that poor girl’s at the concession stand, and I wish I weren’t the center of attention.
“Leave her alone, Ray,” Sunny says, giving him a playful push. “She’s just fifteen.”
Ray says something about how Sunny shouldn’t get fresh with him and also that he remembers her at fifteen, and there are more screams and laughter. I know I have to come back with something and quick, too. Otherwise they’ll just keep going at me.
“Jesus, Ray, we get it,” I say. “You’re a real dynamite in the sack.” And even though it comes out just right and everybody laughs, part of me hopes Grandma doesn’t get telegrams from God alerting her to my using the Lord’s name in vain. They are awfully close.
I drain my Dr Pepper through the red-and-white straw to a satisfying slurp as Connie starts her one-woman act back up. Then I spot Johnny again, appearing from near the concession stand. He doesn’t look any happier than the last time I spotted him skulking near the fence line, but my heart picks up its pace. His big eyes are such a lovely chocolate brown they can only be described as delicious, and he’s so tall that if I ever got the chance to kiss him, I’d have to stand on my tiptoes to do it. Not that I’d ever have the chance, of course.
“Hey, Connie, there’s that brother of yours,” I say.
Connie squints and spies Johnny, then stumbles for a minute. Someone needs to cut her off and soon.
“There’s my brother, all right. He’s been acting like a real candy-ass all night. What’s he got to be so sulky about, anyway—I’m the one who’s been locked up for ages!” She burps and laughs at herself. “Hey, brother!” she shouts at top volume. “Come here!”
Johnny looks up and sees his little sister, shoves his hands into his pockets, and heads over. A lock of his greased-up, jet-black hair falls into his face as he moves, and he tosses his head to the side until it flips out of his eyes. He’s so tuff it’s enough to make a girl dizzy.
“Hey, brother!” she yells again as he arrives before giving him a gentle push on the chest with both hands. “Didja miss me?” She’s slurring her words.
“Hey, Connie, maybe you’ve celebrated enough tonight, huh?” he asks, then glances at me. There are small purple moons underneath his dark eyes, and I wonder why. There’s always been something about Johnny that’s mysterious. Something that reminds me a little of George, my second-favorite Beatle.
“Hey, Evie, how much did she have to drink anyway?” Johnny asks.
I’m momentarily mute at the fact that he knows my name, then manage to answer, “I’m not sure. But it seems like a lot.” Not exactly helpful, I realize. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to speak to boys.
“Yeah, it seems like a lot,” he echoes, shaking his head. “Connie, hey. Maybe we should get you home?” His voice is soft and tender.
Connie sticks her tongue out at her brother and crosses her arms defiantly in front of her. A few of the kids nearby laugh at the sight. “I don’t wanna go home!” she says, stomping her foot. “I wanna stay here. With you and my friends. Even if you don’t want to hang out because you’re so sad and you won’t even let me say why!” She draws two fists up to her eyes and mimics a little child’s tears, rubbing her hands into her face. Her voice slips into slurry baby talk.
“I’m Johnny,” she starts, “and I’m a widdle baby who’s so sad because—”
“Connie!” Johnny interrupts, putting his arm around her and tugging her away. “Cut it out!”
Connie protests as Johnny walks her off into the darkness, and I spy her stumble a few times before he helps her stand back up.
“Jesus,” says Ray, “what the hell was that about?”
“Who knows,” says Sunny, and we catch eyes. With Connie and Johnny, anything is possible. The one thing that’s certain is that the two of them will always look out for each other with ferocious loyalty. After all, they don’t have much of anyone else to look after them. Their mom drinks too much and their dad is sort of rough with them, and that’s on a decent day. No wonder Connie ran away.
After Johnny and Connie leave, things grow quiet for a moment, but the party atmosphere picks up again before long, and I realize I have to go to the bathroom. I think about asking Sunny or Juanita to go with me, but suddenly I feel like being alone. Maybe the excitement from earlier in the night is starting to wear off. Or maybe I’m just tired of worrying about saying or doing the wrong thing in front of everyone. I don’t tell anyone I’m leaving, and nobody seems to notice.
As my shoes crunch over the gravel and my crowd’s voices fall farther into the distance, something unusual happens. The hair on my arms stands up totally straight, and I shiver just a little bit. It’s enough that I pause in my steps for the smallest moment. Then a single sentence marches through my mind, demanding attention.
Turn around and go home, Evie.
I frown and keep walking, brushing it aside. I know my mother would call it woman’s intuition. The same woman’s intuition that told her when I was three years old that my father wasn’t coming back from the corner store. The same intuition that told her that her manager at the diner where she used to wait tables was still married even when he swore up and down that he was as single as they come.
“Every woman has a little warning system in place,” she’s said to me. “And you have to pay attention to it.”
I love my mother, but I think that’s ridiculous. And anyway, if woman’s intuition was real, wouldn’t she have gotten some warning not to marry my no-account father in the first place? And if a woman’s intuition was worth anything, wouldn’t being a girl be just a little bit easier instead of harder, like Connie always says it is?
So I just keep walking, wondering why I can’t manage to shake off whatever it is that’s making me feel so out of sorts.
Excerpted from BAD GIRLS NEVER SAY DIE © 2021 by Jennifer Mathieu. Reprinted with permission from Roaring Brook Press. All Rights Reserved.
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