The Most Beautiful Girl in the World
By Judy Doenges
(University of Michigan Press/Regional, Hardcover, 9780472115617, 224pp.)
Publication Date: May 2006
Judy Doenges's brilliant first novel is the deeply affecting story of Robin Simonsen, a girl growing up in the 1960s and 70s on the wrong side of a Chicago suburb. After the death of her young mother, Robin is left with her kind but irresponsible father-a junkman turned drug dealer-and her grandmother, a retired Vegas showgirl, both of whom draw local fixers and ex-cons into the Simonsens' increasingly shady home. Bright, wise, and observant, Robin is the quiet outsider to her hedonistic family, struggling to come to terms with her ardent love for girls.
Trapped in a house scarily alive with a rogues gallery of hapless and often hilarious crooks, misfits, and hangers-on, Robin must look elsewhere for stability, befriending the son of the neighborhood's only African American family-a boy whose unimpeachable manners and flawless grades mask his own sexuality-while falling in love with the high school beauty.
Wry, edgy, and smart, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World offers a new kind of young heroine, one who stands fearlessly at the precipice of her family and her town's self-destruction, defiantly fighting to save herself.