Grace, Rosina and Erin are very different, but they have one thing in common: They are tired of the boys at Prescott Highschool getting away with everything, they need justice for all the girls they’ve hurt. So, they form The Nowhere Girls and chaos with a hint of feminism ensues.
Trigger Warning: Sexism, Misogyny, Gender Roles, Sexual Violence, Rape, Victim-Blaming, Conservatives, Homophobia, Racism, Ableism, Physical Violence and Assault.
[If you’re easily triggered I wouldn’t recommend reading this book or review, I think it can be very upsetting even to people who don’t have personal experiences with these topics.]
I give this book 4.5 stars (out of five). This book broke me emotionally. I’m not even exaggerating because I read this book all in one day and I spent at least four and a half hours crying on and off while reading and afterwards, nearly the entire last half of the book is like someone is cutting onions in your face nonstop. It is so sad, upsetting, frustrating and infuriating but I think it’s also kind of impossible to cover these topics without having a lot of emotions involved.
This story is always told through a third person point of view but different chapters focus on and follow one of the main characters so you get to see all their different storylines, family life and perspectives.
Before I start talking about the story, here is an introduction to the three main characters.
Grace Salter, she’s the average new girl, she just wants to be enough to fit into her parents life and be accepted. Really she wants to be someone who matters, she doesn’t want to be a nobody or invisible or have fake friends anymore. Grace is committed to starting Nowhere Girls even when the others give up, for me she was also the most relatable of the main three.
Rosina Suarez is the resident queer with a Mexican immigrant family. She’s forced to babysit and work in her family restaurant. Rosina is so badass it makes her a target, she is the center of the majority of racism and homophobia. She’s also the one who has the most to lose out of the main three, she sacrifices her own family and happiness to fight for who and what she believes in and I’m very proud of her. I love all the main characters but Rosina is so strong, she’s really inspiring and I loved reading her story (she eventually gets a girlfriend, which is a win).
Erin Delillo has Aspbergers, she loves marine biology and Star Trek. When she was in 8th grade she was raped in the aftermath her family moved, her parents’ marriage is falling apart. Her mom is trying her best desperately to help Erin that mostly comes from her support/care dog, Spot. She is the most physically abused and misunderstood main character. I love her so much and I think she’s very strong.
[When she started talking about nudibranchs I was so excited because I actually knew what she was talking about, and I couldn’t help but like her more since we share a name.
Also there’s a very cool moment where Erin takes advantage of the fact that the school principal is ableist and doesn’t know how much she’ll understand, so she just acts a lot more incapable than she really is and it works. I know this scene still shows ableist beliefs and actions but it felt empowering for her to get away with stuff because of people (especially adults) underestimating her. ]
The entire small town was still reeling from the aftermath of Lucy Moynihan coming forward and accusing the local schools’ top athletes of gang raping her. Due to the large number of conservatives in this town, everyone supported the guys, victim-blamed her and assumed she made the entire story up for attention. Even the people who knew her and were at the same party didn’t say anything and let the story be turned on the victim, until she and her family eventually just left town.
Grace moved into Lucy’s old house and found notes written in various places throughout her new bedroom, asking for help. It was clear to her from the very beginning that whoever lived there before was not faking anything. At school Grace meets Rosina and Erin who are both unique outcasts just trying to do their own thing, but after hearing Lucy’s story Grace is outraged that nobody did anything about it. That the accused boys are still walking around school like nothing happened and they’re still popular.
Grace, Rosina and Erin band together to create something, a movement to raise awareness and just gather girls together to talk openly about what happened, the boys around them and what they’ve experienced. They call it The Nowhere Girls and they send out an anonymous email to all the girls in the school.
Eventually The Nowhere Girls get bigger and stick together, they hold frequent meetings and start posting messages around school. First warning girls, particularly freshmen, that older guys will try to take advantage of them, then annoucing a sex strike and demanding for better. But the school decides that this is vandalism and gets the police involved to try and punish all the girls involved.
Even after that the Nowhere Girls fight together and get multiple victims to come forward and talk to the local sheriff to report multiple acts of misogyny, blatant hate speech and sexual assaults. Not only was nothing done but they were laughed at and punished for it.
Grace, Rosina and Erin all had to fight their individual struggles to be able to found the Nowhere Girls and keep fighting for what they believe in even in the face of confronting past trauma, family issues and their personal identity.
[Spoiler Warning, skip the next three paragraphs to avoid them.]
They overhear the boys talking about a girl from a school in a nearby town who was recently raped and Grace, Rosina and Erin decide to do everything they can to help her. They drive out to her house and come prepared with information on how to approach a sexual assault survivor and do anything that could be helpful. They offer her people to talk to, options and drive her to the police station so she can report them. Luckily for them the police there weren’t terrible people, helped them all and showed them the kindness and respect all victims deserve.
When they get back home they are all wanted by the police because they have been discovered as the founders of the Nowhere Girls, so they all go to their local police station with their parents and tell the truth. The local conservatives were trying to villainize everything they did but other police had been alerted of the terrible police work so there were police officers from other places as well making sure that they got justice. While Rosina, Grace and Erin were there the rest of the Nowhere Girls also came and the three boys were brought in handcuffs and questioned.
The ending is happy but it also isn’t perfect and that’s just one of the amazing things about this.
I really liked this book but it was just so sad and upsetting, especially because the majority of the adults are so close minded they aren’t even willing to give the girls a chance and immediately shut them down. It’s so frustrating because they’re so focused on convincing themselves that the girls are in the wrong that they’re missing the injustice of the situation. I hated the Principle most of all because she was willing to go way too far when it came to manipulating her students into line. No adult in a position of power over someone who is still legally a child should use it to threaten to ruin their lives and/or the lives of the people they love.
Something I really loved about this book is that while it very much centers around women’s rights and focuses on that it does not leave any community out, it’s full of intersectionality. Even just within the three main characters there’s a lesbian character, a mexican character and a character with aspergers. Outside of Rosina, Grace and Erin there’s also other minorities represented including transgender characters and other diverse people.
I think everyone would be able to find something relatable in one of the main characters and I think that’s pretty important, especially for people from various minorities. I think Grace is the most basic character when it comes to this but I think she was still a valuable character because she’s new to the town like the readers and we’re able to see things from her viewpoint a lot easier too. I think she was also more naive and optimistic than the other characters and that made her seeing the dark reality a lot more depressing but realistic.
I also loved how the author included glimpses into other peoples’ perspective, without ever giving them names this shows someone who’s transgender and was struggling with gender dysphoria but knew in this small conservation town that wsn’t something they could explore freely. And there’s also so many different girls in this small section that were trying to navigate sex.
Sex is discussed a lot in this book, as is necessary with these topics, but I think it is really important when we talk about feminism and even just being safe as women to talk about sex. The Nowhere Girls talk about it and some girls like sex, or are virgins, or don’t like it, or only did it because they felt pressured to. There’s a wide range of opinions and thoughts on sex and this highlights how much of how we think about sex is based on men.
It is fine, expected and even encouraged for men to love sex and seek it out, but it is frowned upon when women do the same thing. It’s a double standard and we’re basically told that we should have sex when men want us to, but we shouldn’t enjoy it too much or own our own sexuality. I think it’s damaging for girls to have that mindset and it leads to girls feeling guilty for enjoying sex.
When it comes to the sex ban the Nowhere Girls do that also throws into question, what if we enjoy sex too? What if we want it and then the ban becomes a punishment for us and not just the boys. But I think what it comes down to is that too many of those girls did not feel safe engaging in sexual activity with the boys because of all the rapes and assaults that were tolerated and even cheered on. In that community I know I wouldn’t feel comfortable having sex, but at the end of the day that is still each individual girl’s choice and that is also explored here.
[Spoiler Warning, skip to the last paragraph to avoid them.]
There were a few specific scenes I wanted to mention here mainly because I just felt like they were really pivotal and influential to the story and to me as a reader. Firstly, on the way to the police station the girl who Rosina, Grace and Erin were helping (I forgot her name) asked if any of them had ever been raped. Grace and Rosina quickly said no, but Erin didn’t say anything and that moment was so strongly emotional and upsetting. It was when Erin opened up about her past to Rosina and Grace and it explained a lot of her hesitation and reactions when it came to Nowhere Girls related things. It made a lot of sense for her character but on an emotional level I was right there with Grace when she just immediately started crying. I think it could be insensitive to cry over someone else’s assault in front of them if they aren’t upset, but this also addresses that and is pretty self aware of everything like that.
The other scene was right before they all ended up at the police station for the last time. Grace walked into her house, saw the police and knew what was happening. Her parents were freaking out but she just calmly told them that she’s one of the founders of Nowhere Girls and she knows what she did and why it was the right thing to do, she’s totally confident with her actions and decisions even when she knew she could face serious consequences. I think this is a big moment for Grace specifically because she always felt like a nobody and that everything she does is insignificant. But she was also actively hiding her involvement in the Nowhere Girls from her parents up until then and I think that reveal was very crucial to her development and her being able to face the police, even when she knew that they might keep protecting the rapists.
Overall I loved this book but it was just so sad, I cried so much and there were so many moments when I was just shocked by the disregard the adults had for the girls’ safety and how many terrible things happened. I said it in the introduction but I can not stress enough that this book broke me emotionally, I have not cried this much over a book ever before.