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The Nowhere Girls

Book review by
Samara Meyer, Common Sense Media
The Nowhere Girls Book Poster Image
Teens aim to end school's rape culture in empowering tale.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Examples of everyday activism and leadership skills. A main character describes her life on the autism spectrum, explains common misconceptions about Asperger's; she's passionate about marine biology and shares facts about sea life. Description of different branches of Christianity. A main character is bilingual and speaks Spanish with her family. Mentions of several influential female musicians and bands. Realistic examples of teens with different sexual orientations, genders, races, economic circumstances. The author lists resources for victims of abuse, rape, and sexual assault in the back of the book. 

Positive Messages

Themes include the importance of consent, fighting sexism, racism, and other forms of discrimination, standing up for yourself and your friends. Girls are complex, smart, capable leaders. Emphasis placed on working together and allowing everyone’s voice to be heard. Being true to yourself is more important than conforming to social norms and roles. Male characters are praised for being kind, understanding, respectful; negative examples reinforce how harmful toxic masculinity and rape culture are. Trauma is not something to be ashamed of, everyone heals differently.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Grace, Erin, and Rosina learn to embrace one another's differences to overcome their insecurities and stand up for themselves and others. Grace is contemplative, empathetic, curious. Erin is thoughtful, witty, open about her experience as a girl on theautism spectrum. Rosina is passionate, independent, and proud of her identity as a queer Mexican American girl. They have a strong sense of justice and are not afraid to challenge the status quo. The other members of the Nowhere Girls group share a wide range of strengths, interests, ideas and show the importance of teamwork.

Violence

Experiences of rape and sexual assault are central to the book, told from survivors' perspectives. Focus on the issue of rape going unpunished due to boys' unfair social privileges. Mention of girls receiving unsolicited nude photos from boys. Some boys use crude and violent sexual language, harass girls. One male character runs a blog where he brags about aggressive sexual behavior, getting people drunk, sexual assault, and describes women in offensive terms. Instances of verbal bullying, name-calling; use of ableist and homophobic slurs.

Sex

Most teens are portrayed as either sexually active or curious about sex. Girls organize a "sex strike" to make a statement at school. Teen girls express sexual desire, talk positively about romance, sex, masturbation, and importance of healthy and safe sexual experiences. Two girls share a kiss. The three main characters all have love interests, but romance is not the most important part of their growth. 

Language

Frequent use of strong language includes "crap," "s--t," "f--k," "God," "ass," "d--k," "bitch," "whore," "douchebag," "slut," "bulls--t," "a--hole," "bastard," "hell," "Jesus Christ." 

Consumerism

Mentions of Facebook, Coke, Sprite, Converse shoes, Star Trek franchise.  

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens throw parties and drink alcohol. Mentions of getting drunk, vomiting, hangovers. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Amy Reed's The Nowhere Girls takes on big topics like trauma, activism, and the importance of consent as it follows three misfits, Grace, Erin, and Rosina, who start a movement to end the rape culture at their small-town high school. The cast of characters represent a variety of identities and family backgrounds, providing lessons on feminism, racism, ability, socioeconomic class, religion, and sexuality from many perspectives. Instances of sexual assault are described in some detail but discussed with sensitivity. There are several references to teens drinking, sometimes to excess. Teen girls speak frankly about relationships, sex, as well as experiences with sexual assault and rape. Teens swear often, including "crap," s--t," "ass," "f--k," and "d--k." Teen boys use derogatory and sexist language such as "slut," "bitch," and "whore," and in some instances brag about exploiting girls. 

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What's the story?

When THE NOWHERE GIRLS begins, Grace Salter is the new girl in town who just wants to blend in, Rosina Suarez relies on apathy to deal with the strict expectations of her overbearing mother, and Erin Dillelo relates more to characters on Star Trek than she does to the real people in her life. The girls struggle with stress from school, social expectations, and relationships with their parents. In the face of their personal challenges, the three unlikely friends are united by a call to action when Grace learns the story of Lucy Moynahan, a freshman girl who was chased out of town after accusing the school’s three most popular boys of gang rape. Grace convinces Erin and Rosina to help seek justice for Lucy  -- but without popularity to gain the favor of their peers, the trio take to the internet, where they form the Nowhere Girls, a support and feminist activist group. Soon the Nowhere Girls grows from an anonymous email chain into a force to be reckoned with that has their whole school and town picking sides in the fight for justice. 

Is it any good?

Author Amy Reed brings depth and authenticity to this transformative story of friendship and activism. With heartfelt sensitivity for survivors of sexual assault and a deep understanding of the complexities of teen girlhood, Reed features a range of perspectives while smoothly transitioning between narrative voices. Identities often sorely misrepresented in popular media -- like working class, queer, immigrant, and disabled characters -- are multidimensional and treated with respect here. Teens can find a lot to relate to in this diverse cast, who realistically juggle the social pressures of high school, family stress, and their own insecurities. 

The Nowhere Girls’ many challenging topics are balanced by the well-developed, wonderfully uplifting character arcs of the three main characters, which will have readers rooting for them from the very first chapter. Grace, Erin, and Rosina are by no means perfect, but they're smart, enjoyable narrators with unique personalities and believable strengths and flaws. Reed is honest and convincing in her portrayal of each girl's journey of personal growth, emphasizing the importance of supportive friendships and speaking up for your beliefs without resorting to cringe-worthy cliches. It is truly touching to witness the Nowhere Girls, with all their differences, unite around a single cause and encourage one another to speak their truths, pursue their passions, and understand their self-worth as girls and as leaders. This is a tremendous, refreshingly nuanced story of girls working together to achieve positive change within themselves and in the world around them that's sure to inspire anyone who picks it up. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Nowhere Girls explores the issue of consent and sexual assault. How do you think this book compares with other books, movies, or TV shows that deal with these topics? 

  • What did you learn about feminism in The Nowhere Girls that you didn't already know? What do you think feminism means to each character? What does feminism mean to you? 

  • If you could form an activist group like the Nowhere Girls, what would you fight for? What would you call yourselves? 

  • There's lots of swearing and other harsh language in The Nowhere Girls. Do you think this accurately reflects how teens talk these days? What would you do if you heard someone you know use offensive or hurtful language? 

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