Cherry Money Baby by John M. Cusick ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: September 10, 2013
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: small town, Hollywood, graduating high school
Format read: ARC borrowed from Jamie! Thanks!
Summary: Cherry is in her senior year of high school, and despite her dad’s urging to get out of the trailer park and go to college, she is just fine with staying in town, her job at the Burrito Barn, and her relationship with Lucas, the boy in the trailer next door. When celeb Ardelia Deen stops in the burrito joint and Cherry saves her from choking, a whole new world opens up with Ardelia at the helm. How will this affect her future?
Cherry Money Baby was, by far, one of the more challenging reads I’ve experienced this year. And as an adult who reads a lot of young adult books, I must say a huge huge thank you to John Cusick for keeping me on my toes throughout Cherry’s adventures.
It’s not every day you meet a character like Cherry, who lives in a trailer park and has so much potential, and is so content with staying in the same town with her dad, brother, best friend (Vi), and boyfriend (Lucas). She ignores her dad’s spiels about getting a better life, blah blah, and she curses up a storm. I kind of love it. She is not afraid to say what is on her mind. She is not afraid to say it in an un-pretty way. Sometimes I forgot she was 18.
So one day at work, a celebrity (that Cherry does not recognize) coughs on some food and Cherry comes to her rescue. Meet Ardelia Deen, who is filming a movie in town and trying to enjoy the local cuisine. Cherry doesn’t think much of what she did — even though TMZ, Twitter, and every other celeb blogger can’t get enough of her — and Ardelia pops back into her life for a night of candy guzzling (circus peanuts) in a sweet ride.
It’s a total culture clash. I wasn’t sure if Cherry and Ardelia would end up friends, but I was hoping for it. As Cherry gets more involved in Adelia’s life, it’s so obvious that money, fame, and sophistication does not equate to the perfect life or knowing right from wrong. Let’s be clear. Cherry doesn’t hang out with Ardelia because she wants to see this other side. At least, that’s not the impression I ever got. She was so chill about things and breaking out of her shell a little bit but it was never because she desired to be in Ardelia’s place. On the other hand, Cherry was kind of Ardelia’s project (she even admits to this) and so many times I pictured Gatsby showing his awesome life to Nick in The Great Gatsby — a whole “this is how you can live if you choose it because why oh why would you choose a trailer park and no college education over fancy champagne?” kind of thing.
See? I totally think all the twists and turns and commentary on society would make Cherry Money Baby an awesome pick for a book club. Cusick’s writing is really solid and smart, I loved his characters, the loyal family unit, and even though a lot is going on (a lot!) I like that there are consequences for these characters’ actions. They can’t just play around with hearts and emotions and each other and not face some kind of aftermath. Even if it sucks, and even if it’s sad.
I wonder if the ending of Cherry Money Baby would have been different if Cherry had not met Ardelia. The moments they shared together may have opened Cherry up to new experiences but I don’t think they changed her course. Even if it wasn’t what others wanted for her, even if she could have aimed higher. (But who can say what is aiming higher?)
This makes me think a lot of “the plan”. Graduation, college, career, marriage, children, death? I’ve found people are uncomfortable when others deviate from “the plan”. Cherry knew from the beginning what she wanted her life plan to be, and I really admire her sticking to her guns and making decisions that were right for her but also being courageous enough to experience life as it comes.