Synopsis: “When Grace learns that Lucy Moynihan, the former occupant of her new home, was run out of town for having accused the popular guys at school of gang rape, she’s incensed that Lucy never had justice. For their own personal reasons, Rosina and Erin feel equally deeply about Lucy’s tragedy, so they form an anonymous group of girls at Prescott High to resist the sexist culture at their school, which includes boycotting sex of any kind with the male students.
Told in alternating perspectives, this groundbreaking novel is an indictment of rape culture and explores with bold honesty the deepest questions about teen girls and sexuality.” (X)
Amy Reed really puts a microscope on sexism and rape culture in this novel and, as hard as it is to read, it’s really important to do so. Grace, Rosina, and Erin not only confront how rape happens with no consequence, but also the pervasive culture that allows boys and men privilege. Grace sees it up close with her mother not being allowed to be called a ‘pastor’ despite her PhD in their Southern Baptist Church and being kicked out for being progressive and not. Rosina sees it in the way her family expects the girls and women to do all the work while the boys and men do nothing. Erin sees it in the way her father is absent from her and her mother’s lives.
The biggest strength of this novel is that Reed is aware that sexism and rape culture are complicated issues and women are not a monolith in their responses. When the Nowhere Girls have their meetings, differing opinions are voiced. Even with the unlikeable characters like Amber and the principal, you understand how they are affected by sexism and understand why they think the way they do.
My favorite quote is “If you don’t think people can change, then what’s the point of any of this?” (pg. 220). Challenging the culture can seem futile, but if you forget that people can change, then there is no point in fighting.
Overall, it’s a beautiful novel about friends sticking up for themselves and for each other and a call to action to raise your voice.
(However, if the topic of rape/sexual assault upsets you, it is probably best you skip this one.)