Fancy Girl by Jasen Sousa is a lyrical novel in free verse, which tells the coming of age story of Deanna Keight, a teenage single mom who is struggling to raise her daughter Madelyn in the Mystic Housing Developments in Somerville, Massachusetts. Deanna is a brash, but capable teen who is stuck at a point in her life where she doesn’t know how to escape the world she has found herself living inside of. Deanna is a female Ponyboy, and Fancy Girl is a modern day version of The Outsiders, and is written in the same successful style as Jacqueline Woodson’s Locomotion, and Patricia McCormick’s Sold.
One day, Deanna is approached in the park by Alissa, a new breed of independent prostitute who offers to teach Deanna the tricks of the trade so she can save up enough money to move out of the projects. Without many options available, Deanna accepts Alissa’s offer. Deanna is even more desperate to disappear from Somerville as she has recently found out that the father of her child, Machinegun Mike, who is doing time in jail, will be getting out earlier then expected. Machinegun Mike becomes enraged with jealously after learning that Deanna has been selling herself, and plans to come home and reunite with Deanna and Maddy so that they can be a family.
At night, Deanna leaves Maddy in the care of her elementary school crush, Johnny J, the only guy in her life that she trusts. Johnny J goes along with this plan at first as he sees it as a logical way for Deanna to save money, but over time, his feelings for Deanna grow, and he becomes disgusted with the idea of sitting at home while strangers feel up every inch of her body. Johnny J confronts Deanna’s way of life, Machinegun Mike, and will let nothing get in his way of freeing Deanna and Maddy.
Fancy Girl is the story of a young teenage mother living in an unforgiving environment, and her journey to do whatever she has to in order to secure a new, and better life for herself, and her daughter. Deanna realizes that fast money is not the way of creating a better life for her family. Deanna is a courageous young girl who has to teach herself about the harsh realities of her projects. Deanna realizes this doesn’t have to be her life. That she doesn’t have to sell her body for money, and that just because generations of her family lived in poverty, doesn’t mean that she does. She realizes she can leave, even if it means leaving with less than what she originally had. This book is important for all teens in general, but especially for young people in the inner city who will be able to look up to a young single mother as a new hero of young adult literature.