She turns around. She sees all these girls talking to one another, girls who normally wouldn’t mix. Grace wants to celebrate. She wants to hug somebody. A twinge of pride surfaces. She wants to tell them she did this. Then shame takes pride’s place. Does Mom’s ego ever rear its ugly head like this? Does her chest fill with pride when she looks at her rapt congregation? Does she forget to be humble? Does she forget that we are only ever vessels of God, of His work? Does she ever, just a little bit, want to take His place?
A commotion in the halls. Coach Baxter and his football cronies march through, tearing down the signs. ‘This is unacceptable,’ coach says, his face red, veins pulsing out of his neck. ‘Principal Slatterly will not condone these rumours. This is bullying, ladies. That’s what it is.’
(The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed. Quote taken from advance copy.) Synopsis:
Everybody knows about Lucy Moyniton. She’s the girl who claimed to be raped by a group of young men. She’s the girl who upset the conservative community in Presscott, Oregan. Who stirred things up with her tale. Everybody knows it happened, but admitting it would mean speaking against central figures in the community.
Nobody knows what happened to Lucy afterwards.
Grace’s family move into Lucy’s old home, and Grace can’t stop thinking about the girl who was so desperate, she scratched a plea for help into her bedroom walls. Grace makes two unlikely friends. Not the kind of safe, somewhere-in-the-middle girls she usually befriends, but Rosina with her firey temper, and Erin. Erin has Asperger’s Syndrome, and is widely treated as a joke, or a ‘special case’.
The girls are fed-up with behaviour in Prescott. Together they form the Nowhere Girls, an annoynimous group for girls to come together and speak out about issues affecting their everyday lives.
The key figures in the community, including the school principal, don’t like The Nowhere Girls. At all. That man with his hate-blog? That’s a bit of a joke. These girls? They’re going to cause trouble.
A book that needed to happen, and a book I will shout about to all my friends. The Nowhere Girls deals with hard-hitting subjects, but it is compulsively readable, with characters who stay with you after you finish.
It would have been easy to show religious, conservative America and treat it like a closed case. X happens here because Y. Amy Reed is a better author than that. Yes, a conservative religious group hold tight reins over a small town. However, Grace is also a Christian. Her mother is a preacher, who challenges the idea that religion needs to be Conservative. Jesus, she believes, came to promote change. This makes the issue less simplistic, and more like real life, which is amazing.
This is Reed’s strength – characters so real they become like people like people you have known, people you worry about and care about and cry about.
Feminism is one of my big concerns. The Nowhere Girls lived up to my expectations, with its straight-talking style. Nothing is glossed over. Infact, glossing-over is something it speaks against. Doubtless there will be someone who objects to its discussion of rape and sex and periods, but if girls don’t talk about these things how will they know right from wrong? Safe from unsafe? As the characters gain power by talking to each other, the book opens conversations among its readers. One of the most important conversations it opens is about consent. No means no means no, regardless of whether you know them, whether you are drunk, or wearing skimpy clothes.
The thing I loved was the portrayal of Erin’s Asperger’s. Finally, someone has shown the way people behave around those on the spectrum. The rolled eyes, the jibes, the understanding. Erin experiences the world in a different way, but she is one of the girls.
A book which deals with topical issues. Read this to experience what life is like for women. Then talk about it. Loudly.
Huge thanks to Stephanie at Atom Books for sending a copy in exchange for review. This does not affect the honesty of my review.