Valley Girls

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 10 Oct 2018

Member Reviews

Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Netgalley and Amulet Books for this free copy.

This is such a long time coming, and I’m trying to clean up all my ARCs that I have before the end of the year, so we will see how I do. I’m glad that I was able to get a physical copy of this book though by the time it already came out so that I could read it without looking at my screen. The monotone voice of the Text to Speech kind of makes me tune it out so I haven’t been doing that as much, but it still helps in a pinch.

Pacing and dialogue seem rushed
Still not really sure what this is about besides climbing in Yosemite National Park
Unfortunately this is my first DNF of the year, and I couldn’t push through after the first 200 pages.

Rilla feels abandoned by her older sister Thea because she left West Virginia without her years ago. I don’t really know what the reasoning was behind it, and by the time I stopped reading, I didn’t really know much. But I was also really disappointed with Rilla and how she kept trying to justify why it was okay to our her sister in front of Lauren (even though Lauren is Thea’s girlfriend) and how there wasn’t a problem with it. Lauren did an amazing job straightening up Rilla and calling her out on that behavior, but Rilla didn’t even apologize for it. Not to Thea or to Lauren. It was just very disturbing.

For the first 100 pages (where I’m at while I type this exact sentence), I haven’t felt much of anything for any of the characters. If anything, I felt confused because each chapter didn’t seem like everything a part of it really should have been together. By the time I got to the first 200 pages, I felt the same way really.

Some of the dialogue felt like there were parts missing, like there should have been more of a discussion in between the beginning and the end, and whenever some of the characters looked confused or just stopped talking, even I was confused. I couldn’t always follow along with Rilla’s thought process, which made it even more confusing for me to see where she was coming from in her head.


I unfortunately didn’t connect with the story enough to want to finish it. Rilla kept putting herself down so much that it was making even me feel hopeless about her, and I usually don’t let characters get to me like that. I don’t know. I felt like she really punished herself too harshly over the things that weren’t the important things, and then that justified why she could behave as the bad sister. It didn’t make sense to me, why she would self-sabotage herself so much. I know that it’s not my place to understand someone’s thought process, or make judgment on it. Unfortunately, it prevented me from finishing the book, and I wasn’t finding many positive things to say about it.
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3.5/5

Rilla is a fierce protagonist who learns to fight for what she wants; that becomes learning to climb an incredibly challenging route in Yosemite. 

At times, Rilla was frustrating in her bullheadedness; but that is less a writing problem (because characters can and should frustrate us) and more a sign of good writing.
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I really liked Valley Girls, Sara Nicole Lemon brings such a beautiful depiction of nature and contrasted that beauty to none other than the Valley Girls, sisters Rilla and Thea. It's such a refreshing read.
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The book, for me, focused on the wrong character and left too many unresolved threads for it to be a fulfilling read.
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This book is about a girl who wants to make her own path. This book is as if Sarah wanted to speak to every reader through her beautifully descriptive writing and I can't speak about anyone else but it's utterly beautiful!.
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I'm sad to say I couldn't finish this. I hate DNFing books but thanks to Marie Kondo's "does this spark joy" method, I find I'm giving up on more books that I'm just not enjoying. This is one. It was just utterly boring, and the protagonist was annoying. I need to like an MC to get through a book, and I didn't like RIlla.
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Overall an enjoyable read. I liked Rilla as a character and the juxtapositions in her character at times. However, the character development could have done with a bit of work and there was often too much description about the actual climbing.
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Unfortunately, this book was not a good match for me, and I will decline to review. I hope plenty of other readers find it more compatible, and thank you for the opportunity to review!
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Loved the setting
Loved the concept

But. I felt there was too many characters, there wasn’t enough character growth and it left me feeling slightly confused at times.
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I was pretty excited to try VALLEY GIRLS since I really love the idea of climbing! I've done a bit of rock climbing, but nothing professional with ropes like they do in this book. So getting to experience it through a story was amazing and made me wish I'd had the chance to do this myself! However, overall, I was really confused at how nothing seemed to actually happen in the book. It was basically about turning Rilla from a "bad girl" into someone who cares for people and works hard and isn't just smoking and drinking all the time. So while her character arc was great, it wasn't particularly enthralling to read dozens of uneventful climbs.

The cast is also very huge and I didn't find anyone remarkable enough to stick out. It was obvious Rilla would eventually fall in love with Walker, despite him being a reported player, and it was a little anti-climatic how everything fell into place like a very predictable puzzle. 

I also could've sworn I saw the author talk on twitter about how Rilla had undiagnosed ADHD, but I couldn't see signs of it in the book? Rilla was disorganised and messy but after having read #ownvoices ADHD books, this didn't seem to fit the other needed traits? So maybe I'm misremembering. (But either way I'm very frustrated with books that don't use labels at ALL, not even in acknowledgements, because you're not showing anyone what it's like to live with ADHD unless you give it a name. Or how the heck is anyone supposed to know?)

The writing was nice, and I enjoyed Rilla's third person perspective. And like the whole premise was UNIQUE. Rock climbing! It had an epic squad-goals team and it was lovely how they adopted Rilla without much questioning. (I swear this isn't YA though. It feels entirely NA or adult, especially with Rilla being 18 but everyone else in their 20s.)

Overall? I needed a plot to be fully engaged with this and have a slow build character arc of changing-into-a-better-person is nice, but not super captivating for me.
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I have a lot of mixed feelings about Valley Girls. I loved the setting and the basics of the plot. A broken girl learning to find her strength and leave her past behind. We watched Rilla grow and learn with the people around her. I learned a lot more than I thought I could ever know about climbing. It was really interesting to learn about the nitty gritty details that I didn't know. I spent my high school years tree climbing with my sister as she worked for a distributor for climbing gear, yet I didn't know half of this. The details we also got to learn about Yosemite and how it's constantly changing was fascinating. I had no idea about the rating systems for the climbs and I was enthralled watching her grow with the climbs. 

However, the character growth was just too slow for me. She didn't really grow into a new person until the very end. Right up until then, she was making assumptions and sabotaging herself. I got exhausted being dragged along her journey, seeming like she never actually took a step forward.

 I also felt like we were missing key details. We never got to see what really happened between her and Curtis, which is way she came out here. We didn't get to see her sister interact with their mother or Rilla interact with her mother that much. I felt like we really needed to see more of this to understand how toxic her home life was. I wanted more of a fallout with her old friends. We don't know who old Rilla was and I think that affects how we see her growth. 

I loved the diversity in this story. We had people from all over the globe, along with LGBTQ* characters. I loved the conversation about not forcing someone to come out, along with the sex scene that was included. It was exactly the kind of thing I want to see in YA. I was upset, however, that the first instance I saw of polyamory in YA fiction was a very toxic relationship. I wish we could see those types of relationships through a healthy lens. Rilla's mom was greedy, self-centered, and toxic. She fit parts of the negative stereotype of polyamorous relationships. I feel like it was a missed opportunity to showcase a community that hardly gets a light on them, let alone a positive one. 

I didn't understand Rilla's constant back and forth. She was also changing her mind, going between ideas and feelings constantly. I couldn't keep up with what she was feeling and I felt like I had whiplash. I was disgusted by her "friends" talking crap about her towards the end. They were gossiping about her and saying very mean things about her. I was really shocked she forgave them so easily and I really don't think they deserved to be forgiven, at least not that quickly. It was just a strange scene for me and it felt out of place. 

It just felt like an empty story to me. I felt like key details and interactions were missing and Rilla's growth was way too slow and painful for me. I really wanted to love this more than I did. *Thank you to Netgalley for this review copy*
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Unfortunately this book was not what I expected. I felt that the main character kept making terrible choices despite complaining about the consequences of her choices.
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This book isn’t for everyone. Pricilla is super messy and kind of awful and doesn’t really start to change until the end. I sometimes feel that when I’m reviewing books I shouldn’t let my super personal emotions impact my rating too much. I’ll talk about my personal emotions all I want in my review, but I try to keep star ratings fairly objective. But with this one, I just connected so strongly to the book. I don’t know if it’s because I currently feel stuck or if I just have this nostalgic homesickness for rock and proper mountains. (Michigan can call stuff mountains all they want but it doesn’t change the fact that they’re really just large hills). Maybe it was the fact that I read it staring at Alaskan mountains, which just worsened the nostalgic homesickness.

I’ve never rock climbed. I’ve tried a couple of climbing walls, but it did not go well. So I don’t know if I’d ever try that, but I think this book did inspire my to hike more mountains. So there is probably a western road trip in my future.

This is about a girl who is a mess, who comes from a messy background, and from a town of people who don’t tend to do much with their lives. Rilla is sent packing to live with her half-sister in Yosemite for the summer so she can get her life together after a fight with her boyfriend. The relationship in question is toxic and abusive and they were both the problem, but the relationship is really only seen in brief flashbacks and discussions. Throughout the book, Rilla is working to move past this and because a better person with healthier habits and relationships.

This book is also very well-written. Sarah Nicole Lemon’s writing style is addictive and easy. It is descriptive enough that you get what she is talking about even if you know nothing about climbing, but it doesn’t get clunky like you might be reading a guide on how to rock climb. The relationships in this book were excellent and realistic and developed at a nice pace. I loved the arc between Rilla and Thea. It was amazingly done.

I like this book because it has a girl trying to get out of not just a bad situation, but trying to break her bad impulses and get better in the long term. And she uses something very physical to do that, climbing. If you talk to my family, I don’t like nature or hiking or blah de blah de blah. HOWEVER, I would like to say, I enjoy hiking, especially if it is my choice and in an environment I’d enjoy. For example, I’m not a fan of a muddy forest. A nice, rocky mountain is pretty fun though. So I can really relate to the draw of the mountains that Rilla feels in the book. The feeling that getting to the top of something strips away and almost cleanses you. I love the feeling. And sometimes that feeling is enough to drive you on a different path in life.

I really loved this story. It was something I needed and loved.
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The character development and pacing were weak -- I never got to know Rilla or any of the other characters, and since Rilla's experiences in West Virginia were why she was in Yosemite with her half sister, I needed more -- but the setting in Yosemite and the climbing were excellent. Those made up for the weaknesses for me, as I loved experiencing those climbs as a reader.
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I have to admit that I struggled with Lemon's debut initially, but by the end adored it. With Valley Girls, it was the opposite. I didn't really feel as though I got to know any of the characters. And Rilla was not a character I liked all that much. 

I think I'd have enjoyed it more if the writing style had been different. If things had been explained fully sooner.
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MORE YOSEMITE LESS DRAMA but still pretty nice book just not really what I wanted or was expecting but happy days for this book and the setting forever and always thanks
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Loved this book. Reviewed and mentioned it on my channel in 3 separate videos.
May wrap up: https://youtu.be/7Czh4h-tMfc?t=59s
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I have read a string of contemporaries with main characters that are dealing with some pretty heavy stuff. Valley Girls falls into that category, but ended on a more hopeful note which made it slightly easier to digest.

Rilla, the main character, has been put on a bus by her parents in West Virginia to live with her older sister who is working as a park ranger in Yosemite. Rilla isn't thrilled about this development and she's not an outdoorsy sort, so she isn't sure how things are going to go down once she arrives. On her journey west, she promises herself that she will clean up her act and stop smoking, but not even twenty four hours after she arrives at Yosemite, she is waiting in a cell for underage drinking. Rilla isn't off to the best start, but things change when she decides to go climbing with Walker, an intriguing and handsome guy who does search and rescue missions in his spare time.

I'm often drawn to stories that have people experiencing nature. I'm not sure why this is as I wouldn't call myself adventurous or a nature lover, but there is something about the freedom that comes with wide open spaces that appeals to me. I found during my time living in the Pacific Northwest that I enjoyed hiking, but I haven't done much since I moved back to the East Coast. Perhaps this is due to the humidity here in the East (I loved the Pacific Northwest weather) or maybe its just the lack of free time now that I have added mom to my job description. Regardless of the reason, these days I choose to live vicariously through characters in the hopes that one day I'll be inspired to lace up my hiking boots once more. Rilla's time in Yosemite certainly made me crave some beautiful scenery.

At its core, Valley Girls is a story about redemption. Rilla must redeem herself in the eyes of her family and repair broken relationships. She will also get a second chance after making some poor decisions while trying to decide if her heart is worthy of a non-toxic sort of romance. While I wasn't a fan of Rilla in the beginning, I could appreciate the journey she undertook to become stronger by the end. My biggest complaint with Rilla in the earlier chapters is that she is immature and short sighted. She doesn't stop to consider how her actions impact anyone other than herself, but this is partly to blame for her being sent to Yosemite in the first place.

Characters aside, the true star of this novel is Yosemite and its climbing community. This is truly a love story to all those who have ever scaled a peak. I have never had climbing on my bucket list, but this novel makes me want to give it a go. There is also symbolism in the physical journey of climbing and how it parallels the barriers we all have to conquer in life.

One Last Gripe: I might have put this one aside if the supporting characters and setting hadn't been so compelling. As mentioned in the review, Rilla isn't a likable main character.

Favorite Thing About This Book: The setting

First Sentence: Shadowy palms wavered in the streetlight, and a moon rose blue and waned over the San Joaquin valley.

Favorite Character: Thea

Least Favorite Character: Rilla
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There were some clarity issues with the writing and this ARC had obviously not gone through copy editing yet because there were a lot of spelling and grammatical mistakes, but despite all that, I really enjoyed Valley Girls. I raved about Dirt Done Cheap last year, and this book was just as great, but completely different.

I’ve been reading some reviews, and it seems that a lot of readers are having problems with Rilla’s character. Rilla cries too much. She’s irresponsible and makes bad decisions. She jumps to conclusions too fast. To be honest, I didn’t love her either. But I grew to like her. She’s a teenager. I remember what I was like when I was a teenager. And as much as I love reading YA, it’s not written for me. Rilla has probably one of the most authentic teen voices I have read in a long time. I’d like readers to give her more of a chance.

Aside from that though, I loved the other characters too. They were all flawed but loveable and realistic. You’re reading about characters that feel like real people because they make mistakes.

And the climbing. OMG the climbing. I have absolutely no interest in rock climbing. I’ve never wanted to do it, and I never will. But I loved reading about it. The passages were well written and I learned so much about climbing and Yosemite. I’ve always wanted to camp and hike in Yosemite, but now I want to make a trip there more than ever.

I guess what I’m saying is that this book isn’t perfect, nor was it perfect for me. But most things in life aren’t perfect, and it doesn’t mean we can’t get value out of them or enjoy them. And for me, this was one of those books where I was able to push aside what I didn’t like and concentrate on all the things I was enjoying.
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Valley Girls was weirdly refreshing. Normally, this book wouldn't have done it for me—the main character doesn't really have any goals, she kind of hides her past from the reader, and she fucks up a lot. But the characters and unique setting won me over.

Rilla was an interesting main character. She was far from perfect, she had her own damage to deal with, and she had an unusual family dynamic.

The other characters were complex and whole, realistic and charming. I enjoyed all of them, and they were the main factor in me continuing to read...because there's not a lot of action in this book.

It isn't until about halfway through that Rilla decides on a goal that pushes the story forward. But if you're looking for a quiet book about realistic and complex characters, a fresh setting, and sports, this may be the book for you (there is a LOT of rock climbing in it).
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