Cover of Dead End Girls by Wendy Heard. Two entwined white flowers drip blood

About the Book

Title: Dead End Girls
Published: 2022

Cover Story: Blood Lilly
Drinking Buddy: Singapore Sling
MPAA Rating: R (sexuality, violence, language)
Talky Talk: Happy Ending?
Bonus Factors: Unperson, On the Lam
Bromance Status: One More Chapter

Cover Story: Blood Lilly

It’s eye-catching, sure enough. I don’t think we need the huge drips of blood.

The Deal:

Four two years, Maude has been planning to fake her death. Working a secret job to have money. Buying a phony passport. Researching crime scene investigations. Her family is going on a trip to Hawaii, and there’s where she’s going to pull the trigger. A tragic boating accident. No body to be recovered. In a week, she’ll be in Bali. In a month, she’ll be in London. Vanished forever.

Until she slips. Her step-cousin Frankie realizes what Maude is planning. And rather than rat her out, she demands to be taken along. Frankie wants to ‘die’ too. Maude must include her. Which means going back to LA and getting another passport. It means half the money and twice the risk. It means delay. It means more of a chance of getting caught.

But what choice does she have?

Drinking Buddy: Singapore Sling

Two pints of beer cheersing

Maude was easy to like. Trapped in a miserable family, with parents who don’t want her (her mother has remarried and Maude doesn’t fit into the new dynamic), she’s willing to do whatever it takes to start over. Even if that means making her parents and her boyfriend think she drowned. But now Frankie is coming along to mess everything up. She’s so flighty and silly and thinks this is just a big adventure.

Except when we, the readers, get to her POV chapters. Frankie is running away from something. Something bad. Something she cannot share with Maude. And maybe it’s not a fake death that she’s obsessing about.

MPAA Rating: R (sexuality, violence, language)

So Maude eventually makes peace with the idea of bringing Frankie along, even though she has to return to hated Los Angeles to get another fake passport. To tell the truth, Maude always liked Frankie, with her free spirit, the way she stands up to the family matriarch, and her out and proud queer ways. The thing is, Maude only kept a boyfriend as part of her cover story as a happy teen. She might very well swing the other way, and sharing cheap motel rooms and clothes with her not-related-by-blood step-cousin makes her have certain thoughts…

But nothing must get in the way of her plan. The pair work as nightclub promoters and shoplift at the mall to raise funds. Everyone thinks they drowned in Hawaii. Until…

It was an accident. The guy was threatening to expose them. Maude didn’t mean for it to happen. But it did. The guy is dead. And now the girls are running from a lot more than their parents.

Talky Talk: Happy Ending?

The book started kind of slow, especially before we knew Frankie’s backstory. But once things started going south, the plot kicked into high gear. It took me two weeks to read the first third of this book, and two hours to read the next 2/3. But one question kept bothering me.

How was the author going to get the girls out of this? Either she was going to have to pull off some unbelievable plot twists, or this book…was not going to have a happy ending. That happens in YA sometimes. You’re waiting for the protagonist to walk away and suddenly you realize the writer has been screwing with you the whole time. I was predicting one of the girls ending up dead, after having taken the fall for everything. But the actual ending…


Bonus Factor: Unperson

A bunch of white question marks on top of each other

So how does one…disappear? Especially in this day and age? It’s not a matter of shaving your head, picking out a new name, and moving to another state. There are papers, fingerprints, social media…if the wrong person sees the wrong news story, your cover is blown.

For two years Maude has been planning. She’s got the cash, she’s got the fake ID. Even Frankie isn’t the wrench in the works she seemed at first. But what happens when the guy who provides the fake passports gets greedy? What happens when the only person who can smuggle them out of a building realizes who they are? What if the cash just plain runs out?

It’s hard to be Richard Kimble in the 20s.

Bonus Factor: On the Lam

A bunch of sheep in a field

So how do you rent a motel room if you have no ID? Which airports use facial recognition software? How do you know that friendly stranger hasn’t been reading about you online? This book does a good job of showing us this in a realistic manner.

Bromance Status: One More Chapter

It was a breathless journey, and I hope to travel more with this author.

Literary Matchmaking

Under A Painted Sky

Stacey Lee’s Under a Painted Sky also deals with two girls on the run and in disguise.

The Prince of Venice Beach

The Prince of Venice Beach, by Blake Nelson, also deals with teen runaways, though of a less competent sort.

A Very, Very Bad Thing

Jeffery Self’s A Very, Very Bad Thing is also about a gay teen and an ambiguous death.

FTC Full disclosure: I received neither money nor an untraceable ID for writing this review.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.