Do not be deceived:
“Evil company corrupts good habits.”
—I Corinthians 15:33
There’s incredible and then there’s incredible. And Cheryl Guerriero, author of the attention-snatching fiction currently under review, would constitute the latter.
As the pages begin to turn themselves over, Girl on Point casually escorts the reader into a rambunctious inner-city high school gymnasium where two opposing girls’ basketball teams are engrossed in a fierce competition. The crowds are boisterous, the adrenaline is going strong, and Alexandra “Alex” Campbell, our leading lady and star of the visiting team’s roster, is having one of her best games of the season. This is the stuff that dreams are made of. And our Alex, at only five foot five, is commanding the hardwood, the net, even a few cheers from the home team’s loyal fans as they’re going wild in the stands. Ah yes, the cloud level for our tomboy baller is number nine. That is, until she retaliates against an extremely aggressive Black girl on the home team with a hard elbow to the nose, drawing blood. Alex is sorry, but her taller and bigger-boned opponent—who lives a harder life in the “hood”—is unwilling to forgive and forget. If truth be told, she actually threatens revenge.
Enter Jenny Campbell, Alex’s younger (and more feminine) sister who, too, fosters an appreciation for the game, and wants to follow in her big sister’s ball playing footsteps. Jenny earns a place on the roster, but her talent is menial compared to that of Alex. Still, the two sisters absolutely adore one another, on and off the court. And their suburban raised, middle-class lives couldn’t be better upon the face of the Earth. That is, until Alex sends Jenny to a convenience store across the street from the home team’s school to buy her an ice-cold Dr. Pepper. For standing invisible in the shadows of darkness, eagerly cheering on Alex’s request for the soda, is the bitter and anguish-inducing spirit called regret. For it has bided its time. And it wants at the human named Alexandra Campbell.
The visiting girls’ basketball team boards their bus to head home, back to their suburban utopia, when the gunshots ring out, sounding very much like firecrackers. Jenny is missing; she’s not on the bus. And naturally, Alex begins to panic. Quickly evacuating the team’s bus, Alex races to the convenience store, her coach hot on her heels, to search for her sister. And when she finds her, Jenny is wounded. She would soon perish . . . right in her big sister’s arms.
The place of death was East Cantor in New Jersey, an urban wasteland of hopelessness, faithlessness, systemic oppression, and a cold, vindictive anger.
This is Cheryl Guerriero’s wondrously penned and rapidly-paced Girl on Point. And the script, meritable of only the finest talent, does itself enormous justice with the incorporation of just that, what an outstanding ensemble.
Desperate to free herself from not only the mind-boggling effects of regret’s grasp, but also her own mother’s grieving disdain, Alex would soon abandon the cozy (and affluent) confines of suburban Middletown to be returned unto Cantor, New Jersey, in search of her sister’s alleged killers, a small-time, four-member girl gang called The Black Diamonds, led by their female general, one Lori Silva. These are a self-loathing and hapless bunch with whom Alex must first form a false friendship before she can go into infiltration mode. But what she will soon learn firsthand is that not all little girls are of the elegant, American Girl dolly and tea party set. In fact, some little girls are just downright brutish . . . and ruthless.
Exhibiting exceptional range in their performances are Alexandra Campbell’s Girl on Point co-stars, all of whom would include:
• John Campbell, Alex’s anchor and gentle soul of a father. John Campbell is long-suffering, despite the loss of one daughter, and the implosion of his favorites-playing wife, Mary.
• Mary Campbell, Alex’s pitiful and social status-conscious mother. A respecter of persons, the disgusting Mary Campbell was maliciously tempted to favor Jenny over Alex.
• Lea, fellow girly baller, high school skeezer, needy man pleaser, and Alex’s using and untrustworthy “best friend.”
• Detective Thoms, the stern head operative in charge of the Jenny Campbell death case.
• Dr. Evans, a guidance counselor at Alex’s high school and a man who’s been there, done that. Beloved by Alex, Dr Evans acts as her go-to confidante and emotional healer in the wake of Jenny’s senseless murder.
• Lori Silva, a sworn leader of the all-girl street gang, The Black Diamonds. Terrifying on the eyes, Lori Silva’s sole purpose for existing is to do the devil’s bidding, and to do the devil’s bidding to the best of her inhumane ability.
• Cynthia “Cracker” Down, a hard-bitten member of The Black Diamonds and Lori Silva’s second-in-command. The pasty-fleshed and direly unattractive Cracker detests Alex at first sight, spitefully nicknaming her “Cheerleader.”
• Ronnie Rodriguez, an obese Latina and beauty school-attending member of The Black Diamonds. Ronnie is seemingly misguided by way of association with Lori Silva and Cracker, but birds of a feather must inevitably flock together.
• Natice “Natty” Gentry, a tall and stunningly beautiful Economics major and member of The Black Diamonds. Natice is seemingly misguided by way of association with Lori Silva and Cracker, but birds of a feather must inevitably flock together.
• Vince Martinez, a ridiculously unattractive drug dealer and Lori Silva’s unmerciful, Mercedes-Benz-driving boyfriend. Much like his nasty lady love, who spends every waking hour serving all the needs of the evil one, so does the human cave spider named Vince.
• Tray Brown, an absurdly attractive, two-gun carrying drug dealer and Natice Gentry’s Lexus-driving cousin. Tray, regardless of his handsomeness, is too a plague on the Earth, and a fellow criminal partner of Vince.
• Pop, a grumpy old man and the owner of Pop’s Pizzeria. Pop, also the employer of Alex and Natice, may present himself blameless enough, but Pop is a substitute father to Vince, and a partaker in the ill-gotten spoils of Vince.
• Mark Silva, Lori Silva’s younger brother and Alex’s love interest. The gorgeous and coveted Mark may look the innocent part, but has he also played an iniquitous part?
• Detective Moreno, a bit player of a Latin hunk—were there ever one—and a new partner to the acidic detective Thoms. Detective Moreno has joined the investigation into the heartless murders of both Jenny Campbell and Mr. Jose Guitierrez, the clerk on duty during the killings.
• Officer Rawlings, one of detective Thoms’s foot soldiers and a dirty cop on the take. A dirty cop on the real take.
Someone born and reared up in the impoverished environs of Canton, New Jersey murdered her kid sister in cold blood. And Alex Campbell—pretending to be from Seattle and operating under an assumed name—has committed her privileged soul to the depths of its urban hell to find out just who that immoral someone is, even if it means her life . . . or that someone else’s.
Well-rounded and thoroughly splendid in its delivery, Cheryl Guerriero’s Girl on Point is every molecule of fascinating, suspenseful, thrilling, and insightful. And despite the age group of her top-billed cast, Guerriero effortlessly features the same in a blended batter of full-grown maturity.
As the dialogue sits comfortably atop the list of the best novels I’ve read thus far in 2018 (I am now with a hangover in the wake of completing it), Girl on Point can confidently boast in my irrepressible recommendation—be it extended to those fans of YA fiction or otherwise. Superb work.
Five trigger-happy stars.
• It is my kindly pleasure to thank Red Adept Publishing, as well as Cheryl Guerriero herself, for the author-issued copy of Girl on Point in exchange for my honest review.
Analysis of Girl on Point by Cheryl Guerriero is featured courtesy of The Review Period with Cat Ellington: catellington.blogspot.com
Date of review: Sunday, April 13, 2018