I gave myself two days to read this book, but I didn’t even need that. I started this book at 8:30 PM on Thursday night, and finished it about an hour after I got home from work on Friday. I just couldn’t stop reading it! I was compelled.
If I would have been able to read it straight through like I wanted, I probably would have let my book high give this five stars, but it was broken up by sleep and work, so my rational brain buzzkilled me a bit there at the end, which is a real shame.
The Nowhere Girls has three main protagonists, all misfits: Grace, who has just moved to Prescott, Oregon from the midwest, when her pastor mother was kicked out of their church for preaching liberal values; Rosina, a Latinx lesbian who spends most of her time helping out her large extended family and navigating her prickly relationship with her mom, but really just wants to go on a date with the cute cheerleader who lives in her neighborhood; and Erin, who is on the autism spectrum disorder, and who loves oceanography and Star Trek: The Next Generation so much she aspires to be an android like Data.
When the three girls come together, an incident from the year before strikes a chord with them. A girl named Lucy, who used to live in Grace’s new house, was gang-raped by three boys from their school; no one believed her, and the boys got away with it. Fed up with the misogynist, rape culture of their school, they decide to start an anonymous group of girls, which begins with an email (also sent out anonymously) to all the girls in their school: We are sick of this. If you are, too, come meet us. They sign it “The Nowhere Girls.” The group takes off (no one knowing who started it), and pretty soon they’ve initiated a sex strike at school. No girl will have sex with any boy at school until the boys, the good one and the ones who have silently allowed the bad ones to flourish, stand up with them and push back.
The sex strike isn’t the center of the book, but it’s a good example of the kind of dark humor that runs through it. The main focus is the interior lives of the three girls, and the main pleasure of the book is watching all different types of girls come together and support one another, as they all try to push back against the status quo and change things. Reed breaks off every now and then to narrate from the perspectives of other girls, and she covers quite a wide range, including girls who are never named, a closeted trans girl who is too scared to admit she wants to be a Nowhere Girl, and girls who are conflicted or downright against what the Nowhere Girls are doing. It’s also incredibly cathartic to see girls from all different social cliques coming together and talking about things that no one is supposed to talk about. I wish that the meeting scenes would have been longer.
I totally fell for all three of the main girls. They could very easily have just been token girls who were there to represent the various factions of their identities, but they weren’t. They were so human and so lovable with their flaws. I loved seeing compassionate, progressive Christianity portrayed here, and that Grace’s mother was one of the few adults who mostly had their heads on straight. I loved seeing Rosina’s complicated family, where she’s itching at the boundaries they provide, but knowing deep down they do love her (and fearing they don’t at the same time). And I loved, loved, loved Erin. Reed must have done a lot of research into autism to get her voice and perspective right, and it shows.
The reason I’m holding off on five stars is the ending. It felt a little rushed to me. I wanted more of a resolution, or non-resolution. I don’t know. It’s hard to explain both because I don’t want to spoil it, but because I’m not sure right now what more exactly I wanted from it.
I checked out some of this author’s other stuff after finishing this last night, and none of it looked particularly interesting to me, but I think I’m going to have to buy myself a copy of this one. It’s definitely one I’ll be re-reading.