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Girl Power: Young Women Speak Out



Portrays teen girls in all their complexity.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Tales of drug use, drinking, attempted suicide, shoplifting, gang activities, and sexual promiscuity are included in a number of entries.


Explicit references to murders, beatings, and being "jumped in" to a gang. Gang life is somewhat glorified. Some accounts of violence and suicide attempts. A number of chapters are rife with pain as girls try to come to terms with physical and sexual abu


Frank discussions of heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual sex.


Roughly half of the book contains offensive language, often used by the girls to express the rage they feel toward those who have hurt them.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this book contains the unedited writings of teens and includes numerous spelling and grammatical errors, as well as references to questionable behavior, though its emphasis on the power of writing is commendable. Often inspiring and sometimes quite painful, the writings of these young women will absorb mature readers. Their actions and opinions will spark interesting discussions.

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What's the story?

Hillary Carlip, who has held writing classes and seminars across the country, has compiled a collection of writings from an incredibly diverse group of American teenage girls. The book is divided into four parts: "Outlaws and Outcasts," "Outskirts," "Outsiders," and "Insiders".

Within each part are writings from teen mothers, gang members, Native American girls, rappers, athletes, homemakers, sorority sisters, and others. Linked by Carlip's honest and incisive commentary, Girl Power provides an interesting glimpse into the inner world of today's American girl--her hopes and accomplishments, as well as her sorrow and pain.

Is it any good?


An unusual glimpse into the minds of teenage girls, this book is also a gripping read for adults. Through its honest, unedited accounts, Girl Power offers readers a picture of teenage girls in all their complexity -- from the gang member with a childish vulnerability who feels she has been discarded by society to the blind and deaf beauty-pageant contestant who aspires to become a heart surgeon. In each of the chapters, the girls discuss the various ways they are finding their own place in what is still a male-dominated society. Female athletes and farm girls, homemakers and cowgirls all offer their perspectives on a woman's place in society and the ways they have found of coping with rejection. It is perhaps this aspect of the book that particularly makes Girl Power compelling reading for young women.

That said, the mature themes and language of the book limit its appeal to a wider range of readers. The harrowing accounts, especially those dealing with abuse, really are not suitable for younger teens. Parents will probably even want to offer guidance to older teens reading this book. Though it contains many disturbing stories, there are also some very inspiring accounts of girls who dare to be the best at what they do despite many obstacles. The prevailing image left after reading the book is of the ultimate power of the pen. Whether it is giving gang members a healthy outlet for their emotion or enabling riot girls to spread their message of nonconformity, writing is power and the key to self-discovery.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about each girl's story and how she expresses her thoughts and feelings about her situation. Can you relate to any of them? How so?

Book details

Author:Hillary Carlip
Book type:Non-Fiction
Publisher:Time Warner Books
Publication date:January 1, 1995
Number of pages:353
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 14

This review of Girl Power: Young Women Speak Out was written by

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