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Book Discussion: Girls Like Us

Girls Like Us by Gail Giles


Biddy and Quincy have just graduated from high school – out of their Special Education program and into the real world. Through their transition program, they receive an apartment and job placements. As they settle into their new life, they rub each other’s hard edges down and provide support as each learns to overcome their past hurts and traumas to find a full life. Both girls deal with some heavy stuff, but they end their story with hope.


Romance Score: Absolutely NOT

This book is not about the warm tingleys of young love. In no way. In fact, trigger warning for abuse and sexual violence.

RosieFeminist Score: A+ Success

This book gets its feminist credits for a couple of reasons. Biddy and Quincy are out in the world, making it on their own with the resources supporting them and they fight back against the (lack of) expectations their families set for them. Not only that, but after some seriously awful things happen, both girls realize that being a “speddie” shouldn’t preclude them from respect and dignity.

diversity people circle icon  Diversity Score: A+ Success

This book features two narrators, both recent graduates of a high school special education program. That alone makes it a stand out in YA. Then, there’s the fact that Quincy has been through the foster care system and is mixed-race, also not super common. Then, in addition, we have them talking about life as young adults with learning disabilities/special needs – a perspective that is rarely (ever?!) seen. Social class issues are also brought into the story, though not directly highlighted. There is a great moment between the girls and Elizabeth, the older woman that Biddy helps care for, that highlights the difficult line between friend and ‘the help,’ as well as the patronizing attitude of people that try to “help” when they think they know what is best for someone.

Awesome Factor: Between You’re Trying and Good Effortwow icon

While I found a lot to value in the story and the narrators, I found a couple of things really difficult. The book was written in vernacular – super southern, Texas drawl. I think vernacular is really hard to pull off at ALL times, but since this book is about two girls just leaving special education, it felt like a disservice to their story. It was extremely difficult to tell in the beginning if the vernacular was regional or an extremely offensive attempt to show their “speddie” status. In the authors note, Giles says she wanted to give a voice to the students she had worked with for many years – but the voice she gave doesn’t sound like most of the other characters found in YA books and serves to separate the girls from their YA peers. It was also difficult to determine which girl was narrating at times, as their voices were not easy to distinguish (maybe because of the vernacular?). Even so, I’m glad to have read Quincy and Biddy’s stories and to have more representation in books.

Favorite Character

I’m not sure I really have one. The book is so quick and the girls melding at times into one another, it’s hard to choose.

Favorite Line

I didn’t find the writing style especially arresting. There are a few passages from Biddy that cut through to the simple beauty of life, but nothing spectacular stuck out.

Is this book worth a hangover?

I don’t think you’ll get one, but you may end up with puffy eyes from crying at the serious injustice that Biddy and Quincy – and by extension, real girls like them –  suffer through.

Read This Next

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco K Stork.

Post Author


Jess loves SFF – old and new school –  and is learning to appreciate the more lovey-dovey YA under the careful tutelage of Anisha’s recommendations.


Filed under Contemporary, Heavy Topics

Book Discussion: How It Went Down

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon imgres


The real world doesn’t have an all-knowing narrator who knows the answers to everything… and neither does this book. How It Went Down is the story of a black teenager shot by a white man. Who’s at fault? Was the black kid in a gang? Was the white man a racist asshole? Good question. No one knows for sure.How It Went Down 2

heartRomance Score: N/A

The story doesn’t focus on romance, so I’ve chosen to skip this category.

RosieFeminist Score: Not a Bit to You’re Trying 

I’m struggling with how to grade this. I don’t think there were many strong female characters in the book. One of them is taken in by a married man, and the other is in an abusive relationship. That being said, the characters seemed very real to me, and I empathized heavily with both, especially Kimberly.

diversity people circle iconDiversity Score: A+ Success 

As you can imagine, this book focused heavily on issues of race and the division of a community during a crisis. The book did a great job focusing on hard topics of race, including the assumptions that we make about one another.

wow icon Awesome Factor: Good Effort 

Given the events of the last few years, this is a must-read for anyone who thinks they “know” what happened in a shooting. This book demonstrates the confusion, hurt, tension, and violence that one event can have in a community. I highly recommend this book.

Favorite Character

Tyrell. He worked so hard to achieve his goals, but had unimaginable roadblocks along the way.

Favorite Line

The two newspaper headlines from Pg 134 struck me:

“Mom: ‘Tariq deserves justice ‘ – Slain teen’s family protests alleged shooter’s release”

“Police Chief: ‘Self-Defense a Protected Right”

Sound familiar to anyone?

Is this worth a book hangover?

Yes. This is not a fun, light read, but it’s an important one. Anyone who thinks they fully understand the complexity of race relations, violence and the police in the modern era should read this book. 

Fun Author Fact

According to her website, Kekla Magoon used to be a Girl Scout recruiter. And despite what she claims, that job does sound a little sinister.

Read This Next

This Side of Home by Renee Watson.

Post Author: Anisha

AnishaAnisha adores YA romance – and thinks that all love stories should start on the beach and end with the first kiss. Jess is helping her expand her horizons with more diverse, interesting books from newer authors.  

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Filed under Contemporary, Heavy Topics, High School

Book Chat: Dreamland

[audio https://508b3cb9dddb5dd059dc9394589a7b755353c53f.googledrive.com/host/0B1btH5LeZjziOG1rM3VFYndrZVU/Dreamland_Both.mp3]

Dreamland by Sarah Dessen4325


Caitlin’s life is turned upside down when her perfect sister runs away on the morning of Caitlin’s 16th birthday. In the midst of all her family chaos, Caitlin meets a mysterious boy at a party. Rogerson is cute, mysterious, and most importantly… not like anyone her sister Cass would have dated. But Caitlin’s relationship with Rogerson soon takes a turn for the worst, and her life spirals out of control.  

Dreamland Favorite Character

Caitlin’s Mother. I like characters who surprise you, and Caitlin’s mother is more than she seems.

Favorite Line

“‘Perfect people’, she finally said, ‘live in picket-fenced houses with golden retrievers and beautiful children. They always smell like fresh flowers and never step in dog doo, or bounce checks, or cry.” In a world where we constantly Instagram and Facebook the better part of our lives, it’s important to remember that no one is as perfect as they may seem.

Fun Author Fact

Sarah Dessen is active on both Twitter and (slightly less so) on her blog. She also posts Fun Facts about each of her books. Her facts about Dreamland are personal and inspiring… check them out here.

Read these next:

If you enjoyed this book, but wanted something a little lighter, check out some of Sarah Dessen’s other novels. Anisha’s personal favorite is The Truth About Foreverfollowed closely by The Moon and More

Is this worth a book hangover?

Anisha and Jess disagree on this one! Anisha is a huge Sarah Dessen fan, and re-reads this book every few years. While Jess enjoyed the perspective, she would not regularly re-read Dreamland, but would try a different Dessen book.

Post Author: Anisha AnishaAnisha adores YA romance – and thinks that all love stories should start on the beach and end with the first kiss. Jess is helping her expand her horizons with more diverse, interesting books from newer authors.  


Filed under Contemporary, Heavy Topics, High School, podcast