The Nowhere Girls, Amy Reed. Simon Pulse. ISBN: 9781481481731.
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.
I give this book 3/5 stars. I really loved the overall message of the book. The world is a messed up place where men and boys can (and do) behave aggressively toward women and girls. The girls in this book really put aside their differences to unite and fight against this rape culture that has solidified in their community. The “US” perspective really helped illustrate these differences. Some of the girls enjoyed sex, others were still virgins. Some of the girls were cheerleaders and popular, others were autistic and considered freaks. There was representation from different religious, racial, and economic backgrounds, plus LGBTQ+ representation. And despite these differences, these teenagers were able to come together and work to make a positive difference in their community.
However, I found myself not being able to connect to the story like I wanted to. I couldn’t relate to the characters, their specific experiences, or the environment in which the story takes place. I have only experienced a fraction of what these girls have experienced. Many of the characters mention having sex at the age of 14, or having all the high school jocks trying to get them drunk enough to have sex with. Maybe it is just me, but my high school never had parties every Saturday, and we didn’t really have jocks or some complex social web where those who played sports were on top and everyone else felt honored by their presence. I know the book had to have this element to really push the plot, but it just left me feeling disconnected from a lot of the story.
Contributing to this was the overall passive tone the book had. When I read a really good book I find myself being sucked into the story and feel like I’m really involved in it. With The Nowhere Girls this was missing. I felt like I was seeing it all from a distance rather than really living in the story. The message is something I fully support in real life, but I didn’t find myself connecting with the character’s specific stories.
Also, minor spoiler: I’m not satisfied with Amber’s ending. I know not everyone gets a happy ending, but her character really seemed to have a lot of potential to grow and be more complex than the author made her. It seems like the author was trying so hard to make a broad, though impactful, statement about rape culture and its presence and effects in our society and in doing so disregarded some of the specifics like character development.
This review is really short, but I can’t seem to accurately describe how I feel about this book. I loved the subversive, girls helping girls fight rape culture portions of the book. But my lack of connection to the setting and characters and the nagging sensation that the characters were created without much thought other than to drive this message home stops me from loving the book as a whole. Many of the Nowhere Girls seemed to be very immature, though they were all in high school. I just found it really annoying that some girls joined the group to get revenge on their boyfriends or because they were bored and needed something to do that evening.
I know my rating is in the minority, so comment and tell me what you thought of the book!