I don’t read a lot of thrillers these days. But I adored the witchy short story collection Tess Sharpe co-edited a couple years ago, Toil & Trouble, so I was very intrigued to check out longer work by her. The Girls I’ve Been is something of a genre-defying book, featuring a thriller-like main plot, combined with a backstory mystery and queer romance. And, spoiler alert, it’s just as wonderful as I hoped for!
It’ll also be turned into a Netflix film starring Millie Bobby Brown soon, so the excitement is high for The Girls I’ve Been – I’m very glad that it holds up to the scrutiny!
Many thanks to Becci Mansell and Hachette Children’s Books for sending me an ARC. All opinions are entirely my own.
STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶
PUBLICATION DATE: 04/02/21
SUMMARY: Meet Nora. Also known as Rebecca, Samantha, Haley, Katie and Ashley – the girls she’s been.
Nora didn’t choose a life of deception – she was born into it. As the daughter of a con artist who targeted criminal men, Nora always had to play a part. But when her mother fell for one of the men instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con herself: escape.
For five years Nora’s been playing at normal – but things are far from it when she finds herself held at gunpoint in the middle of a bank heist, along with Wes (her ex-boyfriend) and Iris (her secret new girlfriend and mutual friend of Wes… awkward). Now it will take all of Nora’s con artistry skills to get them out alive.
Because the gunmen have no idea who she really is – that girl has been in hiding for far too long… (from Hachette Children’s)
OPINIONS: Damn is this book good. The only reason I didn’t finish it in a single sitting is because I’m getting old and I need sleep these days. Narrated by Nora, a whip-smart, wise-cracking girl, The Girls I’ve Been is thrilling and addictive. The reader soon gets pulled into the stories dominating the novel, both the present-day thriller plot and Nora’s mysterious past. But where The Girls I’ve Been truly stands out from other YA thrillers is through showing the emotional impact of the plot.
Despite the close first-person narration from Nora’s perspective, the reader gets a lot of insight into all of the main characters. Wes, Nora’s ex and current best friend and Iris, the girl she is dating, are strongly impacted by Nora’s previous lives and the way she handles her past and Tess Sharpe manages to convey the emotional rollercoaster these relationships undergo over the course of the story masterfully. All of them are such distinctive characters too, it was wonderful to become part of their group for the duration of The Girls I’ve Been.
There is not a single thing I would criticise about this book right now – maybe I’m being too generous, but The Girls I’ve Been has hit a sweet spot I didn’t realise needed scratching. Stellar writing, great pacing and strong upkeep of tension throughout the book coupled with fantastic characters. Not much more I could want.