Last month I received the first Wildest Dreams Book Box, the theme of which was ‘Best of YA 2017’ Needless to say I had high hopes for the featured book, which was The Nowhere Girls, the latest novel by Amy Reed. And on reading the blurb and Reed’s message about the book, I was intrigued to get started…
In The Nowhere Girls we meet three girls who attend a high school in the town of Prescott, Oregon. Grace is the daughter of a pastor, and has recently moved to the area, moving into a home which holds painful memories for its previous occupant. Grace discovers the words of Lucy Moynihan etched into the bedroom wall, a girl who suffered unimaginable pain, before leaving Prescott for good. Lucy was the victim of a sexual assault, but those responsible were never brought to justice. Lucy’s peers did not believe her to be the victim, she was branded and disregarded. That is until Grace arrives and is keen to find out the truth about what happened to Lucy. As a new face at the school, Grace is something of an outsider, but she soon finds company amongst two other girls who could be considered outsiders. Rosina is from the Mexican community within the town, and works as a waitress in her Uncle’s restaurant, whilst dreaming of something far different. Then there is Erin, a girl with Asbergers who, finding social interaction difficult, finds solace in science. I loved meeting these three characters, three girls who are trying to navigate teen life, whilst each having their own battles to face. One of the first things that struck me was the diversity of these characters – girls from different racial backgrounds, different faiths, differences in appearance and status. But The Nowhere Girls is not just a story of three girls, it develops into something much more, and it becomes a story about all girls, and for all of us.
Together, Grace, Erin and Rosina form a group called ‘The Nowhere Girls’ in order to change the narrative surrounding Lucy Moynihan and to generally fight back against the misogynist behaviours and rape culture that are present within the school and the wider community. A message is sent to invite girls to join them, to fight back, and to support one and other, to have the strength to stand up to those responsible for the events that forced Lucy out of town. This is a book that deals with some difficult subject matter, and there are some moments that make for difficult reading. This was most notable in the blog entries from ‘The Real Men of Prescott’, in which the disturbing attitude towards the girls is revealed. But whilst this makes for uncomfortable reading, it is a story that needs to be told. Through the journey of these girls Amy Reed has explored important issues concerning rape culture and how we must challenge the perceptions towards gender. It also looks at matters of consent, sexuality and feminism. I liked that the book was told through the alternating perspectives of Grace, Rosina and Erin, but there are also chapters titled ‘Us’ in which we see the views of girls all over town, as they process the events of the Nowhere Girls movement, whilst themselves becoming empowered, and discovering more about themselves. As the girls’ campaign gathers intensity in the face of challenges, I was gripped by their stories as individuals and as a group as they fought for their voices to be heard. And the overwhelming message I got from this story was the importance of girls and women supporting one and other, and it was brilliant to read about girls from different walks of life working together, despite their differences.
I enjoyed reading The Nowhere Girls and feel that this is an important book, particularly for teen girls. It is a story which deals with a number of issues which are well worth discussing, particularly in light of recent events in which sexual assault and misconduct are being debated in the media. It is a story in which we meet a range of characters who are all different, but who share a desire to change perceptions and change the future, which makes for an empowering read.