This book was…odd.
I’ve been gone for a while, graduating college and cementing my job plans for the rest of the year. Next year, I’m supposedly going on to apply for a dual masters/teaching credential program. So…that’s why there have been no posts.
Three misfits come together to avenge the rape of a fellow classmate and in the process trigger a change in the misogynist culture at their high school transforming the lives of everyone around them in this searing and timely story.
Who are the Nowhere Girls?
They’re everygirl. But they start with just three:
Grace Salter is the new girl in town, whose family was run out of their former community after her southern Baptist preacher mom turned into a radical liberal after falling off a horse and bumping her head.
Rosina Suarez is the queer punk girl in a conservative Mexican immigrant family, who dreams of a life playing music instead of babysitting her gaggle of cousins and waitressing at her uncle’s restaurant.
Erin Delillo is obsessed with two things: marine biology and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but they aren’t enough to distract her from her suspicion that she may in fact be an android.
Buy it – Amazon
The Nowhere Girls was…long. It took me four weeks to read. Not necessarily because of its length or the topic, but because it was monotonous. A whole bunch of this book was teenage girls talking about whether or not they like sex. No part of me wanted to just sit and devour it in a night, like I typically do.
Anyway, while I enjoyed the book, I did have a few issues.
A few weeks before I bought it, I’d attempted to read Moxie. (Another YA ~feminist~ novel published around the same time. ) I got a few pages in, and then shut it out of frustration. The idea that a group of girls are spurred into action because a few ignorant guys told them to make a sandwich seemed so…dumb….
The Nowhere Girls begins with a girl named Grace who moves into an old home of a girl who was run out of town after publicizing her sexual assault. Grace recognizes the toxic nature of her new school, and with the help of two new friends, they reluctantly create : The Nowhere Girls. A club created as a space for teen girls to discuss what was going on around them.
In my eyes, the shining moments of this novel were
- Rosina Suarez’ point of view. Rosina was the only brown girl in the book who got to speak. I can’t say how true to experience Rosina’s life was, because I’m not latinx. But I enjoyed reading her sections the most. (I do feel like her issues with her family, and the struggle with her mother was a bit cliché and stereotypical)
- The third person omniscient perspective. I loved how most of the women in the story had a chance to say their part, and add to the overall story. I especially LOVED the first chapter of the novel, it’s what made me want to continue.
- The topic itself.
- A lot of people disliked how cishet men are portrayed in the story. I liked it. Most men don’t recognize that they’re engaging in toxic behavior until they’re way older, and they’re taught that by women. Most know what they’re doing, and don’t care.
Here’s what I didn’t like…
- There are two rape scenes, that I skipped. They’re easy to skip, and you know when they’re coming.
- I’d like to know what happened with those problematic faculty members. Did the school implement programs to address behaviors they happily perpetrated? Who got fired? From what I see, the principal and a whole bunch of the teachers are guilty, and if nothing is done about them, nothing at the school will change?
- One of the reasons I picked this up, was because someone said in a review that it was a super inclusive story…Was it though?
I haven’t read much feminist theory, so take this with a grain of salt…
- Issues regarding women of color & trans characters would be presented….then the story would head right back on to the plot. Like nothing happened… These girls would mention that they don’t feel like they belonged in the movement….and the story would go on.
That’s not inclusivity to me. That sounds pretty exclusionary.
Also, I loved Rosina’s POV, but a part of me does feel like the author plopped her in to make the book #diverse.
There are three black people in this story, a guy named Jessie, a girl named Shara, and an unnamed black girl who provided this:
“A girl looks around the lunchroom and can’t help but laugh a little at all the groups of girls being forced to separate by security guards. Since when are groups of white girls considered a threat? Must be that Nowhere Girls stuff. Some girls from her softball team invited her to a meeting a couple of weeks ago and she thought about checking it out, but she knew she never would.
Because this feminism or whatever it is they’re doing—it’s a white-girl thing. When they go around making demands and yelling, people call them fired up and passionate.
But black girls don’t have that privilege. When black girls stand up for themselves, people call them hostile. They call them dangerous. They call them other things.”
During a meeting for the Nowhere Girls, Rosina mentions this :
“Oh, look,” Rosina says. “I’m not the only brown person here anymore. There’s Esther Ngyuen and Shara Porter. We have our token Latina, Asian, and Black girls now. Aren’t we just the model of intersectional feminism?”
This is when I realized…that through all of these meetings every single girl heavily involved was…white/cishet (minus one openly queer character)?
I also found it odd that the author mentioned intersectionality, but failed to add any black girls to the main cast. Intersectionality Theory as it applies to feminism was developed by a black woman,Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, and to mention it in a story that centers white feminism….
There was also a trans character, who questioned whether she would even be accepted into the Nowhere Girls conversation:
“Someone sits in the desk designated for Adam Kowalski, but that is just the name on her birth certificate. Her real name is Adele now, but nobody knows it yet. Just one more year, she thinks, the mantra on a constant loop in her head.
She watches a group of girls in a huddle, whispering. Something yanks inside her chest, wanting to join them. She knows they’re talking about the Nowhere Girls; that’s all anyone talks about these days. She yearns to be a part of it, but would they even let her in? Is someone like her allowed? If she showed up to a meeting, would they scream at her to leave? What is her claim to womanhood if it isn’t in her body?”
And you know what? No. she wouldn’t have been accepted. Or if she had been accepted, she probably would have felt very put off, and excluded. The Nowhere Girls got together several times and only discussed sex. That’s it. Not feminism as it applies to like…. the world… And all of their discussions of ~sex~ were extremely cis/heteronormative. Even though there were two queer (out) girls at their meetings, it was still assumed that virginity was a thing taken during cishetero sex…
And the fact that there was a sex ban. The girls weren’t going to have sex with guys until problems were resolved at their school…Sex doesn’t stop at cishet male/female.
Personally, my feminism doesn’t center sexual freedom. Like, duh it’s important. But I’m a bit more concerned about social, economic, sexual and political disadvantages black women face as a whole. For being a woman AND black. Feminism is not JUST about sex!
And yes, I understand they are teens. Most of this stuff they will not be aware of until they are older. Yes, many teens do not think about feminism outside of sexual liberation, but uh, a lot of teens do. You know who may? That black girl, and that trans character who did not feel welcome in the Nowhere Girls. In my opinion, that’s where the true story lay. That’s something that I would like to read.
During all the discussions that the Nowhere Girls had, it would have been great for someone to step up, and point out all the privilege that Grace has, or any of the other cishet white girls there. Rosina could have pointed out, that she was being targeted differently because she is a woman of color. Or even ERIN could have mentioned out how she was questioned differently from the other girls.
I don’t know. It just…was weird….
Maybe I expected too much?
I couldn’t find any other reviews by black and/or trans women, so I’m not sure if I’m alone in these thoughts.
- Cheyenne and Lucy are more than just girls who were raped. I hated that we learned NOTHING about Lucy, but that.
- The Amber situation was a whole mess. Like…..All of these girls group together to get shit done, and they all turn against one girl because she’s slept with a few people. And the scene where she approaches Otis? I… Not going to lie. I lost a bit of sympathy when she asked him if she preferred blacks & r*tards. But in my opinion, she was one of the characters who needed the most help, and no one was there for her.
Basically…there was way too much going on.
Three Stars because I recognize that this book was written for teens, and as a teen? I may have loved it and not noticed the issues . Who knows.