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The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2021
Trigger Warnings: violence, abuse.
Nora O’Malley’s been a lot of girls. As the daughter of a con-artist who targets criminal men, she grew up as her mother’s protégé. But when mom fell for the mark instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con: escape.
For five years Nora’s been playing at normal. But she needs to dust off the skills she ditched because she has three problems:
#1: Her ex walked in on her with her girlfriend. Even though they’re all friends, Wes didn’t know about her and Iris.
#2: The morning after Wes finds them kissing, they all have to meet to deposit the fundraiser money they raised at the bank. It’s a nightmare that goes from awkward to deadly, because:
#3: Right after they enter bank, two guys start robbing it.
The bank robbers may be trouble, but Nora’s something else entirely. They have no idea who they’re really holding hostage…
I’m usually not a thriller reader, but when I saw this on Instagram, I knew I had to read it. A reformed con AND bisexual representation?? I don’t know, that sounds pretty perfect to me.
And I was NOT disappointed. This book had me on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next. It was absolutely incredible to watch Nora use the lessons she’d learned from the girls she’d been (get it?!) to save her and her friends’ lives. She is clever, crafty and quick, and because of her past, she has future.
I also LOVED Nora’s relationships with Wes and Iris. The night before the story starts, Wes, Nora’s ex-boyfriend (who had suggested Iris was interested in a relationship with Nora, and whose relationship with Nora ended because of a lack of honesty) walked in on Nora and Iris. I really appreciated that Wes wasn’t upset because his ex was moving on, or was with a girl, but because he and Nora were close friends, and she didn’t tell him. Also because he knew that Nora hadn’t been honest with Iris about her past yet. But it wasn’t anything to do with his pride, and only concern for his friendship with Nora and Nora and Iris’ relationship. Wes said no toxic masculinity in this house.
I also appreciated seeing Nora in therapy. Although she couldn’t be completely honest in her sessions, (because, you know, her life was in danger.) it was really powerful to see her trying to work through her trauma in such a healthy environment.
I absolutely loved this book. Here’s to hoping for a sequel in which we get to see Nora (with the help of Iris and Wes, because let’s be honest, they’re perfect) taking down more of her demons.