The Nowhere Girls – Review

I chose The Nowhere Girls for my book club as something a bit different to the usual female empowerment books we read, and I am so glad I did. A story based around such a controversial subject matter – rape. We all know it happens, we are all outraged when it’s brought to press but as a society, we never really talk about it.
Rape cult has become just that, a cultural “norm”. It shouldn’t be. Although the book is based on women, I am more than aware that it goes both ways. Women and men should both be able to make the decision of if and when sex happens. Always ask, even if you think you’re sure it’s what the other wants and even if you are in a relationship.

“Silence does not mean yes. No can be thought and felt but never said. It can be screamed silently on the inside. It can be in the wordless stone of a clenched fist, fingernails digging into palm. Her lips sealed. Her eyes closed. His body just taking, never asking, never taught to question silence”

Having read some reviews of the book I was intrigued as to how it was going to be dealt with. Some said it was fantastic Buzzfeed described it as “Empowering, brutally honest, and realistically complex” others said it was the worst book they have ever read. I have to agree more with the former, and I wonder what those that complained about it were expecting.
I was expecting some highly unpleasant and triggering scenes of rape – which there weren’t. Don’t get me wrong there are some scenes that made you feel awkward but nothing over the top or overly violent like some crime thrillers. This isn’t a crime thriller at all. The Nowhere Girls is a story of just that the girls who feel they have nowhere to go.

Reed’s characterisation of the three main girls, Erin, Grace, and Rosina shows the complexity of human nature and how even the most unlikely people can become friends. Even though other characters have fleeting parts they are all three dimensional and make an impact. Throughout the novel there are snippets and paragraphs about average girls, they are so realistic and add another dimension to the book, that is usually forgotten.

“Two miles west, a girl searches the Internet for easy ways to lose twenty pounds.

A quarter of a mile east, someone checks for the third time that the bathroom door is locked. They look at themselves in the mirror and try not to cringe, carefully apply the lipstick they stole from their mother’s purse, stuff toilet paper in the bra they shoplifted from Walmart, cross their eyes so the blur will turn them into somebody else. “I am a girl,” they whisper. “My name is not Adam.”

On the other side of the highway, a girl has sex with her boyfriend for the second time ever. This time it doesn’t hurt. This time she moves her hips. This time she starts to understand what all the fuss is about.

In the next town over, two best friends kiss. One says, “You have to promise to never tell.” The other thinks, I want to tell everyone.”

Reed has captured the essence of teen girls like no other author I have read has. They don’t talk like they’re in their twenties, and they have an innocence that even the savviest teen still possesses. The discussions they have on sex and relationships are realistic to their age, I remember having similar conversations with my peers in my early teens. Despite this they book does not feel immature or corny like a lot of young adult novels do that cover difficult subjects.

I thought Erin, who is autistic, was written fantastically, and I liked the fact that it showed rape can happen to anyone. When Erin watches the rape of Data from Star Trek, and has that realisation and self-understanding made me realise we really can’t get away from it as a culture.

We don’t read any actual rape first hand but the discussion and realisation the girls have are authentic. When the girls are driving Cheyenne to the station towards the end of the novel I was in tears. The raw emotion and the “you shouldn’t say it do that” versus what Cheyenne actually wanted – not to feel alone was raw and so well written.

I would like to point out that not all the boys in this book are rapists, Otis shows compassion to all the girls. He stands up for them, and for what he believes is right despite becoming an outcast from the rest of the boys. There is a lot of white privilege as boys throughout the book, and this is something that every western country has despite how much we try and say we don’t and attempt to make everything equal. There is still a pecking order and white men are still at the top – unfortunately.

My favourite passage was Trista listening to the pastor and thinking about Jesus and how he fought for what he believed in and stood up against people he thought were corrupt. I felt myself nodding along, this is very often what don’t remember about him. He may have “supposedly” been the son of God, but he was a man of the people who stood for equal rights… Just like these girls do, and like all people should.

“Trista thinks about how she’s been raised to always ask herself “What would Jesus do?” She says nothing to Pastor Skinner about how Jesus fought for what he believed in, how he stood up against corrupt people in power, how he showed women kindness and respect at a time in history when they received little of either. But that is not the Jesus who Pastor Skinner is talking about. In fact, the pastor isn’t talking much about Jesus at all.”

The ending was spot on, although personally I would have preferred to see the boys decapitated and buried in the woods – but that’s just me! The solidarity the girls show even when they don’t actually know each other shows how powerful we as women can be if we stick together.

“Because the girls are unstoppable. They are a force. They are a single body.”

The book is available here:
If you have been through a similar experience or would like to talk someone then Rape Crisis is worth talking to:

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