INNERCITY GIRL LIKE ME by Sabrina Bernardo (HarperCollins Canada), 293 pages, $15.99 paper. Rating: NN
Oh, personal strife memoirs - you have a bad rep but you sell more copies than God.
The market is flooded with terribly written sensationalist survival stories, and Innercity Girl Like Me seems to aspire to be one of them. It reads like one, but it's technically fiction. The tag line on the back - "Forget your family. Forget your home. Forget your name. Welcome to the gang" - reads like a cliché from L.A. gangland movies.
Still, as a teen tell-all cautionary tale, it's fast-paced and suspenseful and could become one of those books teenagers, aching for the true grit of girls gone wildly to hell, pass around in secret, like Go Ask Alice.
Set in Winnipeg, the storyline includes incidents similar to ones that actually happened there.
Maria, aka G Child, gets jumped into a street gang at 13 and becomes immersed in a gangster lifestyle. She parties with her gang, the Diablos, commits petty crimes and eventually more serious ones, and fights with rival gang members.
Cut off from her family, she starts selling crack but realizes she's got to get out of the game before she becomes the wrong kind of statistic.
The style of the clumsy and erratic writing will be familiar to any high school English teacher with a favourite student: very good for a 16-year-old aspiring to tell her tale.
That said, Sabrina Bernardo does have a gift for taking us inside the minds of girls with limited options, violent childhoods and dreams of a better life.
It's not complex, but it's not supposed to be.