Review: Tightrope

Tightrope Tightrope by Gillian Cross

Summary: Ashley – who chooses the name “Cindy” when she tags her graffiti – discovers someone is stalking her by sending weird notes and bits of liver and sheep skulls. Ashley draws the attention of Joe, the court jester to the street king Eddie Beale, and though Ashley is the “good girl”, she finds herself starting to trust Eddie and his gang to help her find out who the stalker is. Is it the Hyena, son of the local shop owner Fat Annie? And how can Ashley keep her invalid mother from finding out?

It was hard to believe this book was first published in 1999.  It felt so much older than that…

The Name Game

  • Ashley/Cindy – Ashley’s a fairly common, modernish name, but Cindy?  You choose the name Cindy?  You’re a graffiti artist!  At least spell is Sindy or Synd33 or something.
  • Eddie – big bad Eddie… All I could think of was Eddie and the Cruisers, circa 1982
  • Matt, Vikki, Joe, Pauline, Tricia – I could be reading a Sweet Valley High novel.

Squeaky Clean

This is a version of the streets straight out of vintage YA, where the biggest crimes are stealing VCRs, and no one swears, and gang members don’t carry guns or do drugs.  Eddie’s gang is more like a circus troupe: Joe does imitations like a clown, his girlfriend Sam can breathe fire, and Ashley shows off her acrobatic skills, all to impress him.  Of course Ashley, the main character, is a squeaky clean good girl who only does graffiti late at night, after she’s done the grocery shopping and brushed her invalid mother’s hair.  Even the Hyena, a grown man obsessed with Ashley (who I think was 14), is mostly only thinking about what a nice girl she is and how she’s the only nice kid left in the neighborhood. No pervy thoughts or intentions at all. 

Do you remember when:

  • you had to go to the video store to rent a movie for your brand-new VCR?
  • when the school library computers were used only for CD-ROMs?
  • that one person who owned a cell phone was SO COOL?
  • if you wanted to let everyone know to be at a certain place at a certain time, the best way to do it was not via Facebook or text messaging, but to graffiti a freaking wall?

What?  No Love Triangle?

Even though it seemed at one point that Joe and Ashley might have some chemistry, there is never any hint of a relationship between them.  In a modern novel, there would have been some romance, somewhere.  Here the main couples are Eddie and Sam, and Matt and Vikki.  While Sam is beautiful and does some modeling, there is zero chemistry between them.

As for Matt and Vikki, at one point early on in the story it seems that Matt is abusive toward Vikki and leaves a bruise on her, for which Ashley really lays into her about.  But was Ashley saying, “You should ditch the abusive boyfriend,” or was she saying, as she says later in the book, that Vikki shouldn’t make Matt angry, because of his temper?    A minor thing, but definitely something that didn’t sit right with me.  Most of the time Vikki’s a bitch to him anyway, ditching him and trying to flirt with Eddie.

Without the romance that so dominates almost every YA book on the market right now, I could really focus on the story, which was a decent mystery/thriller.  The alternate viewpoints at the end of each chapter were interesting little red herrings, and the story keeps up a pretty good pace.

(A part of me, though, wished for just a little bit more romance).

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