Barrio Girls

By: Charles De Lint

Star Rating:



Spoiler Disclaimer


Ruby and Vida have been best friends since childhood. They do everything together and like all the same things, including their latest obsession with vampires. Every night they go out searching the arroyo for the magical stone that is a big part of their favorite book series. Vida's uncle always sends his friend, Pepe, to follow the girls on their excursions and watch out for their safety. One night, they encounter a witch, who hexes Pepe for sport, causing him to fall and hit his head on a rock, killing him instantly. Ruby and Vida are horrified by her cruelty and vow to get revenge for their friend's death. They go looking for a mystical man who is rumored to be magical himself, searching for a way to kill the witch so she won't harm anyone else they care about.


Barrio Girls is one of the shortest stories in this anthology (Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron), and as such I didn't find it to be quite as satisfying as some of the others. It's basically about two teenage girls from the barrio who are best friends. They've gone through different phases together. As kids, they were enamored of fairies and now they're really into vampires. They frequently search the arroyo at night, looking for a magical stone from one of their favorite books, and on one of these evenings, they encounter a vampire witch, who seemingly just for sport, kills a friend of their uncle, who was simply looking out for their well-being. They then set out to seek revenge on the witch for her cruelty.

When I first started reading Barrio Girls, it took me a little while to get into it. In describing the girls and their current obsession, the author casually throws out book titles and celebrity names as though the reader is supposed to know who or what they are. I finally realized that they were merely fictionalized versions of perhaps a Twilight style story, but for a few pages, I was a bit confused. Mr. De Lint also writes in third-person present tense perspective, a style I've never read before, and engages in a fair bit of omniscient narration too, which made it very difficult for me to connect with the characters. I was somewhat off-put by the violence in the story, not because it was graphic or anything, but because it seemed cruel. The witch killed the girls' friend, who seemed like a nice guy who'd only been sent to protect them, for no other reason than sport. Then the girl's retaliate by killing the witch, and they too seemed to enjoy it on some level. I just felt like this sends the wrong kind of message to the impressionable middle grade and YA readers for whom this book seems to be intended. Overall, Barrio Girls wasn't a bad story, but it simply didn't leave me with a very satisfied feeling.


Charles De Lint