|The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed|
|Reviewer: Em Richardson|
|Summary: A much needed insight into rape culture, and its prominence in many schools. Teenage girls should read this book to learn that their experiences of sexism are far from unique, and teenage boys should read it to learn that their actions do have consequences.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 416||Date: October 2017|
|External links: Author's website|
Amy Reed’s The Nowhere Girls is another timely novel that aims to educate young women about feminism - a very hot political topic at the moment. It sees Grace, Erin and Rosina - three extremely socially awkward teenagers - unite to create a movement, known as The Nowhere Girls, which will challenge the sexist culture at their school. In the process, they hope to get justice for Lucy, a local girl who was forced to leave town as a result of the abuse she received after truthfully accusing three of her male peers of gang rape.
As someone who is still a student, I love the fact a Young adult novel is finally tackling what I would call ‘the elephant in the classroom’: the normalisation of rape culture amongst teenagers. Sadly, many scenes in this book felt as though they really could have occurred at the high school I attended, including the abuse Lucy suffered for coming forward with her story, and the accusations that rape is somehow the victim’s fault if she has dared to drink alcohol. In my own experience, these were views held by many students at the school I attended.
The book addresses many important issues surrounding rape culture, but the thing I liked most is Reed’s determination to instil the actual definition of rape into the reader. Because it doesn’t matter if a woman is intoxicated, it doesn’t matter if she said ‘yes’ before she ‘chickened out’: forcing yourself onto a woman is rape, end of. I also liked the fact the novel doesn’t hold back when it comes to the discussion of Lucy’s attackers because, they may be young and popular, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that what they did to her was an act of rape. This novel goes a long way toward reminding the reader that young, handsome men can be perpetrators of such crimes, while women can simply be innocent victims, regardless of whether or not they are drunk.
As for the main characters, I loved all three of them equally, and it’s certainly refreshing to see such diverse characters in a young adult novel, especially given they’re so accurately portrayed. As someone with a relative who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, I was impressed with the portrayal of Erin, and how she handles living with the condition. The idea that she is outwardly emotionally detached from events occurring around her, but inwardly very emotionally invested, supports my own observations. Reed can further be applauded for her depiction of Rosina, who suffers the plight of being a gay girl in a family with some very conservative views - a situation that is sadly reminiscent of many real teens’ experiences.
‘’The Nowhere Girls’’ is certainly a novel that deals with some very controversial issues, but I’m pleased to report it does so sensitively. There are no lewd descriptions of rape, just insights into the horrendous psychological damage inflicted on its victims. Equally, the characters don’t have far-fetched backstories, and not everyone comes forward with tales of rape or severe sexual assault, which would be unrealistic, but several of them bond via tales of their own, realistic experiences.
Of course, you’re probably wondering what the characters in the novel actually do to fight the sexist culture of their school, and, truth is, that’s the ingenious part of the novel. Too scared to publicly name themselves as founders of The Nowhere Girls, Erin, Grace and Rosina simply send out an anonymous message to other girls at their school, suggesting they meet. The result is a group of intelligent, committed young ladies coming together in friendship to form a protest movement, aimed at exposing the crimes committed by their peers. As someone who’s read several young adult novels that seemed to actually promote sexism, with their portrayals of controlling boyfriends and stereotypical teenage girls, it’s refreshing to read a one that actually challenges it!
For those of you who still associate feminism with adversity towards men, it’s also worth noting that this isn’t a book that hates men, or aims to suggest they’re all predatory towards women. In fact, some of the male characters are actually portrayed as being very supportive of The Nowhere Girls movement. Yet, it must be remembered that thebook aims to call out men on some of their behaviour, which it most certainly does. Not only does it aim to show men how rape and sexual assault can make women feel, it aims to show them that they have a responsibility to stand up to their friends, whether that’s by reporting behaviour that amounts to rape, or even just challenging sexist remarks made about women. To use Lucy’s case an example, seeing a friend drag an intoxicated girl upstairs should probably be a cause for alarm.
As a whole, this is one of those rare, important books that is brave enough to tackle some heavy, but important, topics. It’s a book I’d recommend to anyone aged 16 or above because, while it isn’t always light-hearted reading, it teaches the reader some extremely valuable lessons about sexual consent, using some very realistic examples. Teenagers in particular - male or female - would do well to read this book, especially if they have an interest in feminism.
I’d suggest anyone who enjoys this novel might also enjoy Can I Speak to Someone in Charge? by Emily Clarkson - a wittier, more light-hearted read, but one that still makes some important points about modern feminism, and which will appeal to teenage girls.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed at Amazon.com.
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