Tuesday 24 October 2017

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Review: The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed

The Nowhere Girls by Amy ReedThe Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed (Proof) - WHO ARE THE NOWHERE GIRLS?
They’re everygirl. But they start with just three.

GRACE SALTER is the new girl in town, whose family had to leave their former community after her southern Baptist preacher mom turned into a radical liberal.

ROSINA SUAREZ is the queer punk girl in a conservative Mexican immigrant family, who dreams of a life playing music instead of 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 be an android.

Grace wants nothing more than to be invisible at her new school, but when she learns that Lucy Moynihan, the former occupant of her new home, was run out of town after accusing the popular guys at school of gang rape, she convinces Rosina and Erin to join her mission to get justice for Lucy. 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. As the Nowhere Girls grow in numbers, their movement becomes about more than sex and transforms the lives of its members, their school, and the entire community.
From Amy Reed's wesbite.

Trigger warning: This book deals with rape and rape culture.

The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed is a book I was so eager to read, having heard it was about a trio of girls who wanted to get justice for a girl who was gang raped but not listened to. However, I had no idea just how incredible this book would be.

When Grace moves into her new home, she find words carved into the window sill of her bedroom. Words of pain from it's previous occupant. At school she finds out the girl who used to live in her house, Lucy, was ran out of town after accusing three popular guys of gang rape. It's not that no-one believed her, it's that it was easier to pretend she was lying than to believe what those guys had done. She makes friends with outcasts Rosina and Erin - one a punk rock girl with attitude, the other a girl with Asperger's Syndrome - the "weird" kids. After learning more about what happened to Lucy, seeing the behaviour of those who got away with it, and the posts shared on blog The Real Men of Prescott, run by a town local, the three decide they have to do something; they have to try and get justice for Lucy, and they have to change the way girls are treated. And so they create The Nowhere Girls. The send an email to all the girls at school, anonymously, calling them to meet up and fight to make a difference. It starts off small, just eight girls. Eight girls who don't think they can really do very much. But one shares that she over heard the guys making a bet on who could have sex with the most girls this year, one saying to go after the freshman because they're easier. The next day, posters appear all over the school, warning girls about the bet. At the next meeting there are more. And it grows.

I absolutely loved this book. So much. I loved Grace, Rosina and Erin, as a trio and individually. They're all dealing with their own problems. Grace has moved to a new town after those in her old town made it almost impossible for her family to live there once her mother became a more liberal pastor in a town that was very conservative. They didn't like what she was preaching, it didn't fit their values, so they turned against her and her family. Grace's mum lost her job, an Grace's friends turned their back on her. So they had to up and leave to start a life elsewhere, and after how Grace was treated before leaving, she just wants to be invisible. She wants to go under the radar and just make it through. But she is haunted by the words she keeps finding carved into her room. On the window sill, on the skirting board, inside a cupboard. Lucy's pain is palpable as her pleas for help and death are read long after she carved them. They are now heard, and Grace simply cannot ignore them. Lucy's pain is in that room, and she can't ignore it. She has to do something to help.

Rosina comes from a large, tight knit Mexican family, where family is everything, where responsibility to family is more important than most things. After school each day, Rosina must babysit the plethora of cousins she has and keep an eye on her grandmother, who has dementia and frequently goes walkabout. After that, she must go to work at her uncle's restaurant, where her mum, and all her aunts and uncles work. Rosina has pretty much no social life outside of school, and her mother is always angry at her. Nothing she does is good enough. She doesn't really fit in with her family, they disagree on what's important, and her dream to become a rock star just doesn't fit in with what is expected of her. On top of that, because of her punk rock image, her slight attitude, and the fact that she is queer Latina, she's not well liked at school. She's friends with Erin, another outcast, and Grace after she arrives. After an encounter with one of the guys accused of raping Lucy, and how disgustingly she is treated and leered at, she realises, too, that things have to change.

And then there's Erin. Wonderful Erin. Erin has Asperger's, and I must admit that I know nothing about nor no anyone who has Asperger's, so I can't comment on how good the representation is. All I can comment on is my reading of her. And she is just fantastic. She is socially anxious; social interaction can be difficult for her; she find emotions confusing; she is super intelligent; and she stims, like rubbing her hands or rocking, when she feels nervous or anxious. She likes orders and plans, she is hugely fascinated by marine biology and has a huge love of Star Trek: The Next Generation. But Erin is also super smart in a way that has nothing to do with intelligence, she is strong and brave, and she, too, wants to do the right thing. She has a traumatic past, one she tries to put behind her and forget. And she struggles sometimes with things the rest of us without Asperger's don't. But she is just incredible. At times, she is the bravest of the three, and with how difficult she can find things, this is just so wonderful, and I absolutely loved her.

The book is told primarily from the perspective of all three girls, but it's also interspersed with chapters from "Us" - chapters that share experiences and points of view of other girls at school, girls who at first have no name, some of whom we get to know better as the stories go on. The trans girl who has yet to tell anyone she's trans, who just wants to get through this final year - who isn't sure she would be welcome to one of The Nowhere Girls meetings. A black girl who doesn't think The Nowhere Girls is for her, because it's ok when white girls want to raise their voices and fight back, but it's a different story when a black girl does, alluding to the angry black girl stereotype. The girl who is known as the school slut, but just wants to be loved, and is hurting so badly. The girl who is student body president, who aces all her classes, who doesn't know if she will be taken as seriously if she were to wear make-up or go to parties. The girl who is conservative and pro-choice who thinks the feminists in The Nowhere Girls will just think she's an idiot. The girl who enjoys having sex and the pleasure she gets from it. The cheerleader who only became a cheerleader because she loves football, but is now expected to look and be like someone she isn't. And on, and on. Most of the girls are hurting in some way, and as the story progresses, and we realises who some of these girls are, and who the other girls think they are, there is this huge disparity between how they are seen and who they actually are, that has led to conflict, jealousy, judgement. But through The Nowhere Girls, as they all start getting to know the real young women behind what they see, people are making friends with people they never would have thought they would ever get on with.

The book is also interspersed, every now and then, with the blog posts from The Real Men of Prescott, and oh my god, they are absolutely disgusting. They seriously had me feeling physically sick. This guy rating the women he's slept with - pretty much admitting to rape; "she just laid there," "she was too drunk to say no" - talking about how women want strong men, how men should put women down, because then they'll do anything to get their approval. Oh my god, it goes on and on. I know these are fictional blog posts, but these are the kind of things I've heard about over and over again that are posted online on sites like Reddit, and the rage I felt reading them... I can't tell you.

This book is so hugely powerful. For a huge group of girls to get together and try to make a change, to get justice for a girl who was raped, who isn't even around anymore, is incredible. For those girls to then talk to people in authority is hugely brave. To then have to battle against obstacle after obstacle that is put in their path, is just unbelievable. The girls in this story are just incredible. And the ending - and what led to the ending - affected more than words can say. There is just so much love and support in this book for those who have experienced rape or sexual assault, like you wouldn't believe. There is listening, but no judgement. There is understanding, but no pressure to do anything. Just the offer of help in any way they can that is freely given. It's overwhelmingly beautiful. As someone who was sexually assaulted when I was younger, I found so much hope in this book. I felt seen, and heard, and supported. I so, so wish I had this book to read back then. The strength I would have found in this book, in these characters who were doing the utmost to do the right thing, to seek justice, would have been so helpful. Knowing that, it makes me so, so glad that this book exists now, for any young woman who needs to be seen and heard and supported. For those girls who will read it who will then see and hear and support others. For the hope I am filled with that after reading this book, girls will get together and find strength and love with each other, and the courage to not back down.

The Nowhere Girls broke my heart several times over, but the love and support showed by girls, for girls, blew me away and mended it again. I finished this book completely overwhelmed with pride and gratitude for these fictional girls, and for the courageous girls this book will no doubt inspire. The Nowhere Girls is without a doubt the most important, most powerful book I have read this year.

Thank you to Atom for the proof.

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Published: 5th October 2017
Publisher: Atom
Amy Reed's Website

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  1. Wow...it really struck a chord with you and that's FANTASTIC! Sounds like a powerful book. Thanks for sharing!

    1. It really did! It's such an amazing book - so, so powerful! I loved it!

  2. Great review! This sounds like an intense and important read. I like the inclusion of a variety of perspectives.

    1. It was so good, and the various perspectives were brilliant - even those who didn't become evolve into names characters. It was just different voices, and their view of the way things were, what was happening, and their own little story, among the larger one. It was just a brilliant, important read!