ARC Review: The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed

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Release Date: October 10, 2017

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Three misfits come together to avenge the rape of a fellow classmate and in the process trigger a change in the misogynist culture at their high school transforming the lives of everyone around them in this searing and timely story.

Who are the Nowhere Girls?

They’re everygirl. But they start with just three:

Grace Salter is the new girl in town, whose family was run out of their former community after her southern Baptist preacher mom turned into a radical liberal after falling off a horse and bumping her head.

Rosina Suarez is the queer punk girl in a conservative Mexican immigrant family, who dreams of a life playing music instead of babysitting her gaggle of cousins and waitressing at her uncle’s restaurant.

Erin Delillo is obsessed with two things: marine biology and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but they aren’t enough to distract her from her suspicion that she may in fact be an android.

When Grace learns that Lucy Moynihan, the former occupant of her new home, was run out of town for having accused the popular guys at school of gang rape, she’s incensed that Lucy never had justice. For their own personal reasons, Rosina and Erin feel equally deeply about Lucy’s tragedy, so they form an anonymous group of girls at Prescott High to resist the sexist culture at their school, which includes boycotting sex of any kind with the male students.

Told in alternating perspectives, this groundbreaking novel is an indictment of rape culture and explores with bold honesty the deepest questions about teen girls and sexuality.

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***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Simon Pulse 

+++ Trigger warnings for sexual assault, violence, general skin-crawling misogynist ideologies and vulgarity

This book has no rating because it is without a doubt the most difficult book I’ve ever had to rate in my history of being a reviewer. Interpret and make your own judgments about what you think my rating of the book is based solely on this review and nothing as limited as a star rating. 

The Nowhere Girls is a battle cry, an ode, a bittersweet mourning, and a rage-inducing awakening. This book is more than necessary, it should be required reading for everyone, regardless of age, gender, or political leanings. Here’s the thing, The Nowhere Girls reads a little Perks of Being a Wallflower meets The Breakfast Club mixed with profound, contemporary questions about society and feminism. At times it feels like your run-of-the-mill coming of age story split in various POVs and as someone who generally loathes coming of age, it lagged for me, despite the eye-opening questions and they way it made me think (which is what marks great, life-changing books for me). I couldn’t really connect with any of the characters, which with so many POVs and an US POV that had the voices of several girls, it’s puzzling that none of them resonated with me. Not that the characters weren’t defined. They were more than multi-dimensional, they practically screamed from the pages with their unique and interesting personalities and their determination to succeed. 

I absolutely dislike the synopsis for this book. It makes the story seem like something it’s not-a revenge plot or some weird, let’s get back ALL THE MALES story. This is far from that. It’s an exploration of what it means to be female in our society and then breaks that down further into all the ways that sexuality, race, and choice intersect with that. 

Here is a list of the many important and critical pieces of what it means to be female that this book discusses in its short number of pages:

  • No means no. 
  • Why we think that if you’re dating someone and they force you that it’s not rape. 
  • How saying yes is a choice and it can be an empowering one. 
  • That girls should not be afraid of their sexuality or that they enjoy sex. 
  • The double standard of “boys will be boys” but a girl who actively explores her sexuality and enjoys being sexual is a slut. 
  • Trans girls and whether they feel they have or can find a place in feminist culture. Transitioning girls and the same sort of questions. 
  • How girls who are known “sluts” are ignored when they “cry rape,” how women are treated differently and their allegations taken less seriously if they’re a certain “type” of girl or from the wrong “side of the tracks.”
  • Differing perspectives on virginity. 
  • Why a sex strike is problematic. 
  • Why we think that if we’re drunk and we say no and are ignored, that it’s our “fault.” 
  • The many many reasons that women fail to report their assault.
  • The many levels of fear women face every single day that men do not ever consider. 
  • Why we feel the need to pass judgment on other girls. 
  • Small town mentality. 
  • Privilege and “getting away with it.” 
  • And many, many more. 

I can’t even count the number of times I found myself nodding at the scenarios discussed, all the many feelings and experiences females go through in every encounter they have with males and even other girls. So much of this book made me remember and reflect and that is the reason WHY I put a trigger warning on this apart from the constant references to rapes and assaults and the feelings associated with these events well after they occurred (because how can anyone forget? This is another thing that’s discussed). 

I was also so angry after I read this. Angry that women have to deal with any of this stuff. Angry that men think they have the right. Angry at all the misogynistic, horrible, and derogatory ways that women are looked at as possessions or to be used and discarded. It’s sickening. 

I feel like I should say that you need to be in the right frame of mind to read this without completely losing it. That if you don’t want to be ragey and heartsick and possibly triggered to put this aside until you’re ready but at the same time, this book is cathartic. It lets you voice everything you didn’t know you needed to say through the proxy of these characters. In a way that is both enlightening and lifts the weight off your shoulders. 

One of the worst and most heartbreaking moments in this book for me is when one of the girls says that she didn’t know she could or was allowed to say no. Holy crap that pretty much knocked the air out of  my lungs. It is so hard to be female. You very well might cry several times and at the end, you might not feel satisfied, but you will feel invigorated and fellowship with every female you see afterwards and that itself is a gift. 

Read, read some more, and for the love of Pumpkin Spice use that reading to inspire change in yourself and in the world. 

Jordan

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ARC Review: Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik

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From the author of Epic Fail comes the story of Chloe Mitchell, a Los Angeles girl on a quest to find love for her autistic sister, Ivy. Ethan, from Ivy’s class, seems like the perfect match. It’s unfortunate that his older brother, David, is one of Chloe’s least favorite people, but Chloe can deal, especially when she realizes that David is just as devoted to Ethan as she is to Ivy.

Uncommonly honest and refreshingly funny, this is a story about sisterhood, autism, and first love. Chloe, Ivy, David, and Ethan, who form a quirky and lovable circle, will steal readers’ hearts and remind us all that it’s okay to be a different kind of normal.

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4/5 Stars 

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & HMH Books for Young Readers

I’ve read a ton of books lately that I’ve loved, but this is the first book in maybe years that I can honestly say I’m grateful for. There are so many beautiful things that happen in this book and they’re done so well that you might not even notice until it hits like an epiphany and the biggest of those things is spreading awareness. People make assumptions and judgments about what autism is, how those who have it should function (or not) in society, and say offhand comments that are both offensive and ignorant. This book does a fabulous job of making people think about what they say and their prejudices against those who are different. Some parts are profound in their simplicity and eye-opening with the totally real and heart wrenching examples that happen in everyday life. 

What’s great about this book is that it showcases various forms of autism that show up on the spectrum. Not all autism is the same and mannerisms, behaviors, and what upsets each person is totally individual. No two cases are identical and how to cope with anxiety, sadness, and rapid mood changes varies immensely. You really have to know the person to understand. Claire LaZebnik stresses that point in the relationships between Ivy and Chloe and David and Ethan. Their parents are not as observant or patient as they could/should be and the siblings know each other best.

When Ivy or Ethan are upset, Chloe and David break through their defenses, ask them questions, and notice when they start tapping or talking louder that these are signs of distress that an outsider would not pick up on. When kids are “freaking out” in public we have a tendency to be dismissive and judgmental, to say it’s poor parenting, the child is a brat, or get angry because they’re “spoiling” your day. Several times throughout the book, Ethan and Ivy are pitied, looked down upon, and their opinions rejected because they “don’t know any better,” it made my blood boil just reading those words. There’s a scene where they’re at the bowling alley and these old ladies make comments about “them” being allowed out and whether they should use bumpers “for safety”, which could be a legitimate concern if there was a visible problem but the condescending approach, speechless. 

Ivy and Ethan are incredibly real. If you’ve ever met someone with autism, you’ll recognize the blunt, factual commentary, focus on a specific niche or activity, and trouble processing the “why” question in regards to emotions and feelings. This book will truly make you think about things you might have never considered. How does someone who may not process/understand or know how to convey their feelings deal with lust or attraction? I mean, this is so so important. If someone who has autism has questions about this, how do they know if they’re attracted to the same sex? The LGBT dimension of this book is challenging and urges the reader to question. The conversations between Ivy and Chloe are fueled by understanding and asking matter of fact questions that lead Ivy to come to her own conclusions. These are model conversations and full of so much love. 

David is an intriguing character. He’s sarcastic, cold, antisocial, and yet, there’s something about him that’s compassionate and will win your heart. The way he adores his brother and is willing to sacrifice his future for him, total swoon material. Don’t get me wrong, he’s abrasive and takes a bit to get used to, but he’s a catch. 

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Chloe. The way she let terrible comments roll off her, the way she let her boyfriend and friends say stuff about Ivy, like she was abnormal or a mistake conflicted with the understanding and love she showed her sister. At first, Chloe seemed like an opinioned, flighty, typical popular girl and I pretty much loathed her. She fought one moment and shut down to keep her hot girl status the next. She does grow as the story progresses but it takes a long, long time. 

Sometimes the pacing was slow because they focus was on the lust between Chloe and her boyfriend, which was full of semi-repulsive groping and horrible comments about Ivy and the fact that the boyfriend didn’t get enough attention because she was always helping out her sister. Just no.

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Keep reading, 

Jordan