Published by HarlequinTeen
Published on 10 September 2019
Genres: 20th Century, Girls & Women, Social Issues, United States, Young Adult
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It's 1992, and there's a rumor spreading in Baton Rouge…
When it comes to being social, Athena Graves is far more comfortable creating a mixtape playlist than she is talking to cute boys—or anyone, for that matter. Plus her staunchly feminist views and love of punk rock aren’t exactly mainstream at St. Ann’s, her conservative Catholic high school.
Then a malicious rumor starts spreading through the halls…a rumor that her popular, pretty, pro-life sister had an abortion over the summer. A rumor that has the power to not only hurt Helen, but possibly see her expelled.
Despite their wildly contrasting views, Athena, Helen and their friends must find a way to convince the student body and the administration that it doesn’t matter what Helen did or didn’t do…even if their riot grrrl protests result in the expulsion of their entire rebel girl gang.
I received a copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
You would think, for a book that calls itself Rebel Girls, that there might be some actual rebellion going on in the plot.
It’s not the author’s fault (I hope!). Publishers can change the title of a book to whatever they want. And sure, the idea of a good little Catholic girl rebelling in her school really appealed to me.
But this book could more accurately be called ‘Girls who push boundaries but don’t really break rules’ and not appeal to the masses as much as ‘Rebel Girls’. ‘Girls who work within the established system.’ Because Athena is a Good Girl (TM) and nothing will change that.
That’s the thing that annoyed me the most about this book. I kept expecting actual rebellion, not teen girls helplessly looking at each other while your typical Mean Girl (TM) ran amok, actually ruining lives with their one-dimensional cruelty, armed with nothing but nasty gossip, rumours, and the ability to anticipate and get there with a sob story first.
Seriously, Leah is meaner than Regina George.
Although I didn’t get the rebellion I was sold, I did like the characters and their motivations. Athena and Helen butted heads on their deepest beliefs, and their mother wasn’t around to help guide them. Their dad was largely absent due to work, and actually triggered the inciting incident through his failure of managing domestic tasks: because nearly 6 foot tall Helen had to go to school in her first day of freshman year in her much shorter sister’s skirt, people were already assuming that she was promiscuous… Due to wearing a short skirt. Yeah, this is the 90s, it totally happened, and it’s totally believable. Everything in this well-researched, obviously much-loved novel is totally believable, even the relationships between a girl and a guy best friend, his bitchy girlfriend, and the Nice Guy (TM) our heroine Athena falls head over heels in-sta-love with.
I also really enjoyed watching the teens navigate their friendships, especially Athena with the senior girls, her own other best friend (a purple-haired Asian girl), and Athena with Helen’s indistinguishable (at first) friends. I liked seeing girls come together, support each other, and work on a problem: that’s the power of feminism. Also, I found it really refreshing how, although Athena and Helen were on opposite sides of the abortion debate, they could put their differences aside and work together – and neither of them changed their stance, so it never felt preachy.
So although I didn’t get the rebellion the title of this novel sells, I still did enjoy the book – mostly – on the strength of its love and nostalgia for Louisiana in the 90s, and realistic portrayals of teen friendships in high school before social media existed which is a thing I think modern day teens might enjoy, too.