Cherry Kerrigan isn’t your typical heroine of a YA novel – she’s foul-mouthed, feisty, quick to get into physical altercations with other students at her high school. Indeed, she seems to have little interest in school; content with her simple life, her family’s tiny trailer, her job at the Burrito Barn, and her street-artist boyfriend Lucas. The arrival of Hollywood starlet Ardelia Deen is set to change all that, introducing Cherry to a world in which fast cars, expensive clothes, and drug-fuelled parties are the norm. Cherry and Ardelia become friends quickly, perhaps too quickly, and then Ardelia makes Cherry an offer that could change her life forever.
Cusick has created a memorable protagonist in Cherry, her narrative voice is distinctive, and instantly likeable. While this could have been a predictable coming-of-age story in which Cherry realises that small town life is limiting her potential, Cusick is interested in exploring the tiered class system and obsession with celebrity culture in American society, and does so in a deceptively light hearted way. There’s also an emphasis on discovering who you really are, and remaining true to yourself – an important message whatever your age.
The book is divided into three sections (Cherry, Money and Baby) and while the first two sections are engaging and tightly paced, the book lagged slightly in the ‘Baby’ section. Due to some inappropriate language and references to sex, Cherry Money Baby might not be suitable for younger readers, but it is a novel that older teenagers will enjoy.