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Bad Tickets    by Kathleen O'Dell order for
Bad Tickets
by Kathleen O'Dell
Order:  USA  Can
Laurel Leaf, 2008 (2007)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Kathleen O'Dell's Bad Tickets takes place in 1967. Mary Margaret Hallinan narrates her story of wanting to be different, perhaps a 'wild girl'. She has a new best friend, party girl Jane Stephens, and a stepfather she hates and refers to as a pervert. Jane never talks of her biological father, who went away.

The two students rush back to Sacred Heart Academy to make an afternoon class. It isn't long before the intercom announces they are to report to Mother Superior's office. Their privileges for off-campus lunches are suspended, and they are assigned to assist in cleaning the church during lunch time. Mary Margaret and Jane clean the confessional stall; Jane on the priest's side blesses her friend with: 'Go and Sin Some More'.

Mary Margaret verbalizes: 'I'm going to be cooked in a soup ... You know my mother.' Her relationship with Mom is tense at best, as Mary Margaret has figured out that she was conceived in the back seat of a car, and Mom resents her eldest. There are four more siblings in the Hallinan family, the youngest in diapers. Jane voices her opinion of Mary Margaret's situation: 'the reason your mother's always angry is she knows she bought a 'bad ticket', i.e. a guy who takes her nowhere, stuck in the same place since 1952'.

Jane sets up an invite to a college boys party, helping Mary Margaret with a makeover. The two friends take the bus to the party location, in a part of town that's a mite hazardous. The Rainbow House, full of hippies and drifters, is not what they expected ... but they grow to like it. They meet some of the free love crowd; eat brownies with an unusual taste, and smoke cigarettes that taste different, leaving them loose and relaxed. Mary Margaret wakes the next morning feeling like she had 'swallowed a blanket'.

I felt befuddled with the flow of whatever story I was first grabbing on to - two girls with great imaginations, open for change and trouble. Then in comes the serious, as Mary Margaret becomes a couple with a boy from Sacred Heart, Mitchell Dunn, while Jane gets involved with Donnie from the House. The true meaning of Friendship takes a front seat, while humorous meets serious, such as when Mary Margaret gets her sister Paula to iron her hair, as Jane had done the day before. All goes well until there is a pffffffft sound and a scorched smell. Mary Margaret's bangs are in trouble!

Kathleen O'Dell's Bad Tickets is a blend of growing up, searching for a way to be different, bad times, good times, laughter, and sadness as very surprising changes come about-face. There are strong main characters and a good storyline, but somewhere it all falls short as the early chapters could actually have been left out. However, young adults will enjoy the read, just as their elders will relate to the 1960s, those years of Free Love.

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