By the time I was 50% of the way through The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed, I was in complete awe of this amazing book. While billed as a young adult book that focuses on a group of high school girls, there is still much in the book for adults as we all are facing a society that is finally recognizing how large of a problem sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and rape are in our culture.
The Nowhere Girls starts with the beginning of the school year as Grace, a liberal minister's daughter who is new to town becomes friends with Rosina, a Hispanic lesbian outsider at the high school, and Erin who has Asperger's disease and a hidden history others at the school know nothing about. Grace has moved into the home of Lucy, a girl who was raped by three boys from the high school last year. Unfortunately, Lucy was not believed by the community and was shunned by her peers. Her family left town in disgrace.
Now Grace wants to find justice for Lucy. As she learns about the rape, Grace convinces Rosina and Erin to help her form "the Nowhere Girls," a group devoted to bringing about change around the rape culture in their small town. While there are great doubts among the girls as to whether the group will do any good, slowly but surely its numbers and its effectiveness grow. Soon the establishment of the town is fighting back, forcing the principal to suspend any members involved in the Nowhere Girls for daring to accuse the boys of the town of inappropriate behavior.
Midway through the book, a group of 31 girls clandestinely meet and have an incredible discussion. Among the topics they broach are virginity, sexuality, pleasure, and what they owe boys. The girls begin to realize that they don't owe boys or men anything in terms of sex. They have a right to make choices about their own bodies. They realize they need to start supporting each other regardless of whether they are virgins or sexually active. They speak out against the slut shaming that happens in our culture wherein boys can be sexually promiscuous but girls are not allowed to be. As I read this discussion, I began wishing that The Nowhere Girls was mandatory reading for all high schoolers, though I can see the religious right screaming in terror at such radical ideas being promoted to impressionable youth.
Mixed in with the primary themes of rape and sexual activity are also discussions of what it means to be accepting of others. Current topics that are part of the national discourse such as community activism, immigration issues, racial issues and transgender acceptance are all part of the book. The Nowhere Girls was published in October 2017 just as the #MeToo movement was beginning to emerge, but the book is very much in line with all that has happened since.
Without spoiling the ending, I will say that I was left choked up in very good tears at the end of the book. Amy Reed powerfully engages readers' emotions, especially those of us who have dealt with the same fears, struggles and obstacles that her heroines face. For young people facing these same issues as they come of age, The Nowhere Girls can give hope that things are changing in our world for the better.
©2018 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., GreenHeartGuidance.com