The Baddest Girl on the Planet by Heather Frese

The Baddest Girl on the Planet
Heather Frese
Winner of the Lee Smith Novel Prize
Blair Publishing
March 2021
HC 9781949467161
Order here

“My husband is not the first man to disappoint me,” begins Heather Frese’s The Baddest
Girl on the Planet, a novel that chronicles Hatteras Island native’s Evie Austin’s life from
childhood through middle age. “That honor goes to Mike Tyson, who I met the summer I
was nine,” Evie’s assured voice continues. The reader is hooked: Mike Tyson? Really? And
off we go, through her childhood friendships, her youthful marriage, her postpartum
depression, her aunt’s funeral, and her romantic flings. This novel-in-stories doesn’t
proceed chronologically, but emotionally or thematically, like songs on an album. The first
story describes Evie’s divorce, the last a potentially good boyfriend, while other friend,
family, and romantic relationship fiascos bounce back and forth in time in-between. My
favorite thread is Evie’s relationship with her childhood friend Charlotte, who in one story
Evie invites on a free honeymoon cruise. The story demonstrates that middle-aged
friendships, like middle-aged marriages, have their issues, but the two women decide, at the
end of the trip, not to break up. The stories also alternate narrative tactics: one is in first
person, another in third person, another in second person, another arranges itself as an
outline for a book on funeral etiquette, another as a list of letters to Dear Abby. These
variations allow the reader to view Evie from different angles, which stimulate a deeper
engagement with the character and the story; however, Evie herself remains constantly
witty throughout, and her voice—at times curious, clever, spiteful, brash, regretful, or
hopeful—carries the reader through the shifts in time and form. When I finished, I felt as
though I’d read a delightfully told story of my cousin or my sister or maybe even myself. A
smart, fun, and charming debut novel.

Rachel King is editor of Ruminate Magazine. Her short fiction has appeared in One StoryGreen Mountains ReviewPigeon PagesLunch Ticket, and elsewhere, and her poetry chapbook Between Work and Light is available from Dancing Girl Press. She is currently working on a short novel and a collection of linked stories.