Bad Girls



Violent, voyeuristic look at teens sent to wilderness camp.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Could inspire some thoughtful discussions at home.

Positive messages

Teens are sent to a wilderness camp for girls and are humiliated and belittled by their caretakers. The girls are emotionally and physically violent with each other, with only a couple of exceptions that get lost in the overwhelming negativity of the book.

Positive role models

The adults in this book are mostly controlling and abusive, not caring about the teenagers in their charge, only wanting to force compliance at all costs.  Eventually Anna and the other girls work together to escape the forest and find civilization, but there had pretty much only been cruelty before that.


The main character is forcibly removed from her home, she tries to escape from her captors, and is knocked down by a large man. She is held face-down on the ground by the man. A girl says she put bleach in her mom's coffee, a girl is slapped by her male counselor, several men are shot, there is a graphic attempted rape scene. There are also milder fist fights between teen girls, and one teen hits another in the face with a softball.


A main character is seduced by her teacher, who impregnates her. The girl is forced to have an abortion. A teen begins to masturbate for her male guard at a wilderness camp. Teen girls go skinny dipping.


Very liberal use of swearing, including "p---y," "c--t," and many uses of "f--k." Also, hate speech like "retard," "dyke," "homo," and "lesbo."


Some brands mentioned in passing: Chevy Astrovan, The O.C., Ben and Jerry's, the Lifetime network, the Oxygen network, and Nikon.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The teen main character admits to regularly drinking alcohol, smoking pot and cigarettes, and taking ecstasy.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this book is a violent, voyeuristic look at teen girls sent to wilderness camp as punishment. The girls are under the care of cruel "counselors," mostly men. There is a murder, a rape scene, and plenty of violence between the girls, as well as emotional and physical abuse at the hands of their "counselors."

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What's the story?

Anna Wheeler, daughter of a bestselling Christian novelist and his mousy wife, is sent off to a wilderness camp for troubled girls after her parents decide that they've had enough of her rebellious behavior. Camp Archstone is run by an uncompromising group of counselors who demand obedience and are willing to go to any lengths to get it. The other teens at the camp are vicious, and things go from bad to worse when they find themselves alone in the forest, pursued by an unknown gunman.

Is it any good?


The premise for Bad Girls reads like soft-core pornography. It starts with teenage girls who are imprisoned by male guards -- of course there is an obligatory scene where a girl begins to come on to a guard -- and ends with every single female stereotype. There's the lesbian who teases the male guard by masturbating, the queen bee and her drones, the fat girl, the girl who cries, the brainiac, the mute, the girl who got pregnant by her teacher, and the stern headmistress. There is very little in the way of emotional exploration of the main character's issues leading up to her incarceration. It's page after page of surface stuff, nothing deep here, which adds to the voyeuristic feel. These girls are objects, not characters. There are small glimmers of decent characters, but they are so overshadowed by the stereotypes that they don't even warrant a mention.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the premise here, which the publisher has billed as Mean Girls meets Lord of the Flies. Do you think that's an accurate description? Who do you think the publisher inteded to read this book?

  • There's a lot of mature material here, including a murder and a girl who gets pregnant after having sex with a teacher. Who should decide when a book is too intense to have in school classrooms or libraries -- or what's appropriate for you to read? Is that a decision that anyone besides you should be able to make?

Book details

Author:Alex McAulay
Genre:Coming of Age
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:June 14, 2005
Number of pages:320
Publisher's recommended age(s):12

This review of Bad Girls was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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