A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Making a grenade and smoke bomb from ordinary household items is narrated.
Sometimes you have to hide your true self in order to survive, but to be a survivor you have to find a way that you can safely be your true self. Emphasizes the importance of trusted loved ones for healing and recovery. Sometimes it's OK to use violent means to protect yourself or stop an abuser; it doesn't mean you're a violent person.
Positive Role Models
Narrator Nora was a victim of psychological, physical, and sexual abuse for most of her childhood. She learns that she doesn't have to try to be invisible, that she can and should stand up and be seen by the people around her. Through violent self defense, she made herself stronger and able to survive. Nora identifies as bisexual. An ex-boyfriend is now her best friend, and she's in a same-sex romantic relationship. Another character's past same-sex relationship is mentioned. Nora and Iris model a loving relationship of mutual support, loyalty, and deep emotional connection.
Violence & Scariness
The main plot is about teens held hostage during a bank robbery. People are shot, stabbed, punched, choked, slapped, and burned. Weapons include guns, knives, scissors, knitting needles, a broom, and heavy objects. Blood and pain are described briefly without gore. Past sexual abuse, including raping a child, is referred to and implied but no actions are directly described. A villain is set on fire and survives. Pain from a fall from a ladder is described in some detail. Teens build a chemical bomb with shrapnel and a smoke bomb out of household items. The chemical bomb causes serious injury; blood and skin stripped away are mentioned. The smoke bomb causes confusion and choking.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some kissing, holding hands, romantic dynamics, and feelings of attraction. A character has endometriosis and has debilitating pain during menstruation. Talk about using a menstrual cup and menstrual blood. A past teen pregnancy and abortion are mentioned, and that the pregnancy was caused by the boyfriend not liking to use condoms when his girlfriend on birth control pills had to take an antibiotic.
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"S--t," "holy f--k," "f--king bitches," "bulls--t," "ass," "pissed," and "hell."
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Products & Purchases
Incidental food, clothing, car, and other products to establish character or mood.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Airplane bottles of vodka in an office desk drawer. An adult character only drinks once a year, but to excess. Mention that a character has a low tolerance for booze and weed. A character accidentally eats a ton of pot cookies. Mention that a friend is stoned most of the time.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Tess Sharpe's The Girls I've Been is a suspense thriller that involves being held hostage during a bank robbery. There's positive LGBTQ+ representation, and past emotional, physical, and sexual abuse and trying to heal from that are strong themes. Present-day violence includes shooting, stabbing, choking, punching, and a small, homemade explosive, with some pain described in detail and blood mentioned but not described in detail. Past sexual abuse, molestation, and rape are mentioned but not described. Sexual activity is mild with a few same-sex kisses, holding hands, and romantic dynamics. Some aspects of menstruation are discussed in detail. Strong language includes "s--t," "f--k," and "bitches."
Is It Any Good?
This suspense-filled story will keep readers on the edge of their seats with its effective blending of past and present. The excitement in The Girls I've Been kicks in right from start and is cleverly balanced with piecing together the mystery of Nora's past. There's even a nice balance of humor and a little bit of romance woven in, too. Nora's a believable narrator even though she's hard to get to know, but learning about her past in bits and pieces is an effective way of showing the distance she's always had to keep from people in her own life. When she finally starts to really come into her own, and find within herself the power and courage to be her own person, readers will come to understand and maybe even admire her. Near the end, the pacing stutters a bit, so there's no real surprise or shock there. But it does come to a satisfying and effective end. Violence, including child abuse, and strong language make it best for teens and up.
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