Author: Amy Reed
Genres: Young Adult, Fiction
Pub Date: Oct. 2017 (read Apr. 2018 as audiobook)
Why aren’t more people talking about this book?!! This was so fantastic and such a great example of how much impact a YA novel can have!
I am on fire with reading audiobooks lately. I get one audiobook a month on audible and I had a huge backlog because I hadn’t used it at all since November, but this was my 4th audiobook in the last month and I’ve finally run out of credits and will have to go back to the library’s crappy audiobook selection now. I may have to buy a hard copy of this book too because the writing was just too good and sometimes I miss things on audiobook, so I’d really love to give this another read. (the audiobook narrator is still great though!)
The Nowhere Girls tells the story of 3 girls in high school: Grace, Rosina, and Erin. Grace is a self-identified, christian, fat girl who just moved to Oregon from the South because her mother, who is a pastor, was too progressive for their mega-church. Rosina is a gay, mexican girl who constantly fights with her mother over the excessive amount of responsibility she feels is placed on her and wonders if she’ll ever have a loving girlfriend. Erin has Asperger’s and struggles to make friends and relate with people. Her family moved to Prescott 2 years ago after an incident that happened to Erin and now her father is never home and her mother is overly obsessed with Erin’s health.
Erin and Rosina are each other’s only friends and they welcome Grace into their group when she starts at school. When Grace finds upsetting messages written on the walls of her bedroom, she discovers that her new home used to belong to a girl named Amy who claimed to have been gang raped at a party the year before. No one believed her and she was essentially forced out of town. Grace is upset by the cries for help etched into her wall and asks Erin and Rosina for more information on how this could possibly have happened and whether there’s anything they can do about it. They are apathetic at first, but eventually, the Nowhere Girls are born, a group for girls who want to talk about the unfairness of the world and the expectations that are placed on them as women, and do something to change it.
I’ve seen some comparisons of this book to Moxie, which I also read last year. Both books were published last year and a focus on combating rape culture and empowering girls. Moxie seems to have gotten most of the buzz, which is a shame because, while I liked Moxie, I thought this was a much stronger book. This is an exploration of rape culture, identity, diversity, and inclusion. Moxie was a great book too, but is a more white-feminist exploration of sexism and rape culture, this felt way more gritty and intersectional. There were some actions that the nowhere girls took that I kind of questioned (the sex strike), but Reed has her characters question those actions too and I liked the journey her characters took in trying to navigate the complicated world of gender politics. She did briefly feature one black girl who felt the Nowhere Girls was a group for white girls, and I wish she’d explored this angle a little bit more, but still a fantastic and thought provoking novel overall.
Amy Reed explored a lot of aspects of rape culture in this novel from a lot of different perspectives. I liked that she didn’t just focus on Grace, Rosina, and Erin, but that she also linked in a lot of side characters with little snippets from their perspectives. But I still thought all 3 of the main perspectives were very strong. I really appreciated that Reed included a christian perspective outside of the context of a christian novel. I can’t actually think of many examples of religious exploration in YA novels outside of specific christian fiction, which is often preachy and not that relatable. I liked that Grace and her family were down to earth and that they were able to find a way in which their faith and liberal mindsets didn’t have to be mutually exclusive. I liked that Reed acknowledged that it’s both okay to want to wait until marriage to have sex and to have no desire to wait. That saying yes is just as important as saying no.
I thought Erin’s character was really well done as well, although I’d be interested to hear from someone with Asperger’s if this was an accurate portrayal. I liked Rosina a lot too, but I struggled to understand her mom. This is the 3rd book I’ve read lately about a Mexican family and they all had similar themes of familiar conflict, but I thought Rosina’s mother had almost no humanity. I know she was frustrated with Rosina, but come on, Rosina is a teenager, she’s obviously going to act out and it didn’t really seem like her mom really cared about her all.
But these are small complains because I really did love this book. It represented so many different experiences, while also being really well written. I read The Authentics earlier this month and complained that it was just too feel good and the conflict lacked depth. The Nowhere Girls is the complete opposite of that and the reason I think YA books shouldn’t be afraid to really go there. Teenagers are complex and emotional people and authors shouldn’t be afraid to challenge their thinking. I would recommend this book to any teenager and any adult because it has some great discussions about rape culture and it will make you mad!