"Once upon a time there was a girl who served pizza in a rat costume. That was me." So begins the fairy tale of Ashley Hannigan, keen observer of her kingdom. No, it's not Cinderella and her stepsisters, and it's not wretched work doing chores while stepsisters go to the ball. Ashley's real-world torments include a lousy job at EZ-CHEEZ-E, a home life where "noise tied the house together like duct tape around a busted water heater," and the road to the ball—the prom—is paved with a series of unfortunate events, related with such humor and good spirits that readers will attend her all the way to her fateful appearance.
Not that Ashley ever wanted to go to the prom, and not that she could go even if she wanted to; she has too many detentions, and the principal is on her case. But her best friend Natalia Shulmensky wants to go; she's been waiting for this all of her life. And Ashley's organizing abilities and expertise at bossing people around pull her into helping Nat plan the big night.
Stolen prom money, a broken leg, an injured foot, a ruined dress, a missing grandmother and police at the castle gates make the best laid plans a challenge for the most earnest of planners. But Nat's pink notebook contains a vision of grandeur brought to life, and Ashley is determined to pull it off.
Perhaps the girls puking in the bathroom or performing oral sex behind the bleachers detract from the aura, but overall it is a magical night for Ashley. Even if the underwear model is lured away by a girl "whose dress was cut so low she was showing nipple," it is a night to remember, a celebration of the normal kids. As Anderson says in her acknowledgments, this books serves as a "rowdy shout-out to all the 'normal' kids . . . nobody ever writes about."
Laurie Halse Anderson's Prom is laugh-out-loud funny, and older teenagers will find themselves passing this book around and reading the funniest scenes to each other. This novel is sure to be a big hit, though language and subject matter aim it at older readers. Copyright 2005 BookPage Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2005 Fall
Ashley Hannigan is more concerned with finding an apartment with her boyfriend than with the one night that has all the other kids at her urban high school enthralled. But when the event is threatened, Ashley single-handedly saves the prom in between exhausting shifts at the pizza place. Few adolescent girls will be able to resist Anderson's modern fairy tale. Copyright 2005 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2005 #2
Anderson's new novel weaves the singular spell of senior prom, captivating even jaded, street-smart, practical-minded Ashley Hannigan. Ashley, one of the "normal kids [who] weren't going to college, no matter what anybody said," is more concerned with finding an apartment with her boyfriend, T.J., than with the one night of romance that has all the other kids at her urban high school enthralled. The prom is suddenly threatened, however, when first a teacher steals all the funds and then Ashley's best friend (and head of the prom committee) breaks a leg; Ashley single-handedly saves the prom in between exhausting shifts at the EZ-CHEEZ-E restaurant. Despite her heroics, Ashley's unserved detentions and a malicious vice-principal conspire to keep her away on the big night, while her over-involved but loving family will do anything to get her there. The novel is set in a working-class Philadelphia neighborhood, but Ashley and her friends could be any American teens, less defined by their background than by their dreams. Ashley's poor academic performance is hard to reconcile with her intelligence and ambition, though Anderson offers a credible distraction in the charming (but unreliable) T.J. In allowing herself a little magic and fantasy, Ashley begins to see a different kind of happy ending to her life after graduation. Few adolescent girls will be able to resist Anderson's modern fairy tale. Copyright 2005 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2005 January #2
Ashley thinks of herself as a normal kid: best friend next door, hot, but unreliable dropout boyfriend, parents a bit spacey, and a household barely hanging in there. She's not into the prom the way her best friend Natalia is, so when it nearly gets cancelled because a teacher has absconded with all the money, Ashley is not prepared for Nat's approach. Nat figures they can still have a prom, if they beg for stuff and get teachers to help and bribe the custodial staff and so on. Rather against her will, Ashley gets sucked into the lists in Nat's pink notebook. It delights her very pregnant mom; it makes dealing with all those detentions and uncompleted assignments even more of a chore; it focuses Nat's slightly addled Russian grandmother on dressmaking; and calls Ashley's hilarious aunts to the fore. Modern teen life just outside Philadelphia is vividly drawn in Ashley's first-person tale, and it's both screamingly funny and surprisingly tender. It's also full of sly throwaway references: oaths taken on a copy of Lord of the Rings instead of a Bible, Ash's dad singing Aerosmith, accounts that read, "he was all . . . I was all . . . then he was all." Expect teen readers to be quoting aloud to each other, and giggling. (Fiction. YA) Copyright Kirkus 2005 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2005 January #4
Ashley Hannigan has her future all planned out. She'll graduate by the skin of her teeth (if she can serve the detentions she's racked up and pay her overdue book fines), and then she'll move into an apartment with her 19-year-old dropout boyfriend, T.J. The last thing on Ashley's mind is Senior Prom... but that's before a crisis hits Carceras High. After Miss Crane, the math teacher, embezzles all of the prom money, Ashley's best friend, Nat (short for Natalia), begs Ashley to help the prom committee. Before Ashley understands the full impact of what's happening, she finds herself leading a frenzied campaign to reorganize, finance and pull off a whole new prom in less than two weeks' time. This energetic novel, narrated by Ashley, offers snappy commentary about high-school life, and some priceless scenes, one of which features Ashley (who had planned to skip the dance) being barraged by hand-me-down gowns from well-meaning relatives (none of which fit). Ashley shines brightly as the heroine who saves the prom, but memorable supporting characters-Ashley's very pregnant mother (expecting her fifth child), an entourage of loud Irish aunts, and Natalia's Russian grandmother, who has Alzheimer's and a taste for canned ravioli-also add sparkle. Whether or not readers have been infected by prom fever themselves, they will be enraptured and amused by Ashley's attitude-altering, life-changing commitment to a cause. Ages 12-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2006 February #1
"This energetic novel, narrated by Ashley, offers snappy commentary about high-school life, and some priceless scenes," wrote PW . Ages 14-up. (Feb.)[Page 72]. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.