Rebel Girls

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Oct 2019

Member Reviews

Rebel girl you are the queen of my world
Rebel girl, rebel girl
I know I wanna take you home
I wanna try on your clothes
Love you like a sister always
Soul sister, rebel girl
Come and be my best friend
Will you, rebel girl?
I really like you
I really wanna be your best friend
Be my rebel girl

I had Bikini Kill running through my brain every time I picked this book up. This feminist, realistic, awesome story warmed my cold, dead heart and was everything I wanted it to be. There were so many time reading that I thought I could see the twists and turns coming and dreading the potential reactions of characters that would ruin the book for me, and every time I was wrong. This book oozes girl power, revolution, and exactly what it's like to be a teen girl fighting the power.

Set in the early 1990s, Rebel Girls tells the story of Athena Graves, aspiring Riot Grrrl and high-school sophomore who never feels quite outspoken or punk enough to really be part of the movement. Sure, her taste in music fits the bill but she knows that being a feminist is so much more than that. Unfortunately, she's often stuck her her sister, Helen. Helen is an aspiring fashion model and was the head of the pro-life club at her middle school. 

Everything changes once they're back to school and a viscious rumor starts spreading - people think that Helen had an abortion over the summer. Their ultra-Catholic high school strictly forbids this, and the rumor is not only ostracizing socially, it could get Helen expelled. 

Helen and Athena, along with their friends, band together to protest the rumor, but also send a message that it's not anyone's business whether or not she had an abortion. 

Athena fights the power, stands up for women, and always sticks to her values. The way she questions herself and chides herself for thinking things that don't always line up with the feminist message was so real and honest and refreshing. The growth we see in her as a character was amazing, and left me so happy. I'll definitely be buying a copy of this for all the young girls in my life.
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Girls gone bad! You have your small town drama with girls being mean and vindictive. You have your good girls that like to do the right thing plotting to get back at the mean girls and teach them a lesson in a way that prevents them from doing this type of thing to anyone else. Everyone is rooting for the good girls.
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In this day and age, this book and the topics within it are just as important as they would have been back in 1992 when this book takes place. However, I found that the way this book was executed fell very short of any expectations I had of this book. 

The feminist aspects of this book did not come across the way that I feel like they were intended to solely because the main character, Athena, did not seem to convey why she felt the need to believe the things that she did other than the fact that her Riot Grrl heroes felt that way. So much of her inner dialogue was her saying sexist things and then backtracking because she shouldn't think like that. There's no real motivation to her beliefs, she's still very much sucked into the popularity contests of high school and she falls on the "not like other girls" spectrum at her Catholic school.

The entire book dealt with issues that Athena's sister, Helen, was encountering but was all told from Athena's perspective I'm assuming because Helen didn't have the same beliefs as Athena did so that's why Athena was chosen to force feed us her honestly blindly believed thoughts. I think all of the characters in this book were incredibly flat. They were all stereotypes that played into a dramatic high school story. The mean girls, the jocks, the cute boys, the outcasts, etc. Sister Catherine was my favorite character in this whole book and she hardly played a big role at all. 

I feel like the message in this book had the potential to be something really good but I spent the entire book getting more and more frustrated over everything. The overall plot wasn't even revealed until 100+ pages into the book because the first quarter was filled with fluff about crushes and typical school drama. This also had an incredible lack of empathy towards any character. There was so much cruelness from multiple characters that it physically hurt to read.

I wish I could say that I wanted to recommend this but I can't.
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This was a cool trip down memory lane.
A large chunk of my rating is for the nostalgia aspect of the 90's era.
The characters were interesting and the story was decent.
I would have liked more rebellion for a book called Rebel Girls.
With the setting being a Catholic school I suppose they did what they could within those confines.
Thanks you NetGalley and Harlequin TEEN for my ARC.
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Rebel Girls attempts to repackage nostalgia as a novel, substituting pop-culture references for thoughtful worldbuilding. The result is a poorly-paced, directionless story with a disturbing lack of empathy.


In the mid-1990s (though not often as early as 1992), thousands of young women were embracing the “riot grrrl” ethos: a punk aesthetic infused with third-wave feminist ideology. Many girls and women found empowerment and community in the music, fashion, and zine-based consciousness of riot girl-dom.

Still, the movement drew criticism. The “riot girl” could be accused of a shallow, privileged sort of feminism, one that was more concerned with how to dress than it was with the problems of anyone who wasn’t white and middle-class. At its worst, the movement confused aesthetic with substance and provocation for progress. It measured success in outrage, not productivity.

I could apply those same criticisms to Rebel Girls. Elizabeth Keenan set out to write a love letter to the 90s high school riot girl, but I didn’t fall in love. Instead, I came away with a powerful sense of all the worst impulses of the riot girl movement.

he root of the problem is our “protagonist,” Athena. To be honest, I’m not sure that label applies here. Athena is the main character of Rebel Girls the way Nick is the main character of The Great Gatsby, which is to say, she’s not. She has virtually nothing to do with the story besides being around to witness it.

Our point-of-view character who contributes little to the plot, so Athena’s biggest contribution to Rebel Girls is in her first-person perspective. Everything that happens (mostly people sitting at different tables and talking) is filtered through her brain.

And Athena’s brain isn’t a particularly interesting or pleasant place to be. More importantly, it doesn’t do anything for the book. Athena experiences essentially no character growth; she ends the story with her opinions, values, and prejudices intact. Her self-absorption, rarely challenged by the book, is a distraction from the real story.

The real story, theoretically, is this: There is a rumor going around at this southern Catholic high school that Helen (Athena’s sister) got pregnant and got an abortion over the past summer. And… that’s bad?

It is bad, of course. Helen is staunchly pro-life and this rumor is painful and humiliating for the rule-follower. What’s worse, if the school administration ever got proof (that doesn’t exist) of the abortion (that didn’t happen), they would theoretically have the power to expel her from school (which never seemed remotely likely).

But “this bad thing is happening” isn’t actually a story, so Keenan spends the first half of the book trying to cobble together reasons that this is a problem that needs to be solved. We’re never quite clear on the goal and stakes here. Athena isn’t sure what she’s doing besides “making a statement,” so as the reader, I wasn’t sure either. (See, again: the worst impulses of the riot girl.)

It’s immediately clear from the premise that the real protagonist is, or should be, Helen. Helen is the one with everything to lose, the one who is emotionally affected by what’s happening. Helen is the one with a goal.

So why isn’t the story told from Helen’s point of view?

he answer, I think, lies in the author’s note. (Oh, you authors and your notes. Telling on yourselves for no reason.) Elizabeth Keenan mentions her longtime interest in and study of riot girl music, which seems to explain why she packs each chapter with song references rather than, say, characterization. More importantly, she discusses her personal connection to the subject matter: her own riot girl-dom, picking arguments with teachers at a southern Catholic high school in the early 1990s. Keenan is careful to point out differences between herself and Athena, but acknowledges that they have the same relationship to the early 90s political battles over abortion rights. Athena is clearly a self-insert for the author.

The impulse to novelize episodes from one’s own teenage years is dangerous for YA writers. It can help authors new to writing for teens to connect with that age group, sure, but it also invites a deadly bias. Everyone feels that their thoughts are fascinating and their experiences are powerful. (Of course they are, when they happen to you!) But that doesn’t mean they’ll make a good novel as-is.

Rebel Girls reminds me of Me Myself & Him by Chris Tebbetts, another recent YA with an autobiographical basis. The two books have the same problem in this regard: substituting real experiences for storytelling basics like stakes, character growth, and focus.

In the case of Rebel Girls, the instinct to self-insert led the author astray. A character like Athena is the last person that should be narrating these events. Several of her classmates, who are actually involved in the plot, would have made interesting, subversive narrators. But we’re stuck with Athena, whose shocking lack of empathy pervades the book.

Consumed by teen-movie popularity politics, Athena is supremely unconcerned with the humanity of the people around her. She seems almost unaware that her classmates are people with emotions just as vivid as hers. She doesn’t understand them and doesn’t feel the need to try.

Even at the book’s climax, when another young woman has been very publicly outed about a personal and potentially traumatic history, Athena watches from the background, emotionally unaffected. “This was better drama than 90210,” Athena gushes to the reader, watching a moment that should have been emotionally wrecking with the attitude of a popcorn-crunching movie-goer.

To whatever extent literature is about empathy, about looking past the bridge of our noses to understand the experience and emotions of someone else, Rebel Girls is a catastrophic failure.

This, truly, is the reason that Rebel Girls isn’t from Helen’s point of view. Beyond the author’s desire to self-insert, Helen simply doesn’t have an interior life to inhabit. The book is uninterested in her perspective. She’s pretty, we are told in detail. She’s pro-life, we are reminded often, though Keenan refrains from even the slightest illustration of what that means for Helen. Why does Helen identify so strongly with the pro-life cause, having been raised with staunchly pro-choice women? What attracts her to that movement? What are her beliefs about pregnancy and the unborn?

Rebel Girls just doesn’t care about any of that. It’s not interested in taking the subject matter seriously. Like the worst stereotype of a riot girl, the book tells us that sex, pregnancy, and abortion shouldn’t be a big deal in an evolved feminist society, so they can be treated as jokes in a book for teens.

As per my rating system, I only give one star to books that I believe: are bad for the world of YA, and I personally didn’t enjoy, and I believe are poorly written from a craft perspective.

I think I’ve made my case for the first qualification. With so much diverse, compassionate YA, I hate to see a book with no interest in empathy on shelves.

And obviously, since I’ve ranted on for hundreds of words, I didn’t enjoy this one. I looked back through my reading notes, and… yikes. A lot of sarcasm there, Katie.

Finally, a quick look at the quality of the book’s writing: it’s rough. It’s really, truly rough. For context, of the fifty-ish YAs I’ve read this year, this one would have to be dead last in command of craft.

Honest-to-god, this book starts with the main character getting ready for the first day of school. Not because anything important happens–nothing happens that whole day! Remember that rumor about Helen that incites the entire plot? Athena (and the reader) hear the rumor for the first time on page 96.

Even when you get through the worst of the pacing, there’s little reward. Athena is the only character with more than one dimension. Keenan tries to get away with building characters on tired high-school stereotypes by constantly (multiple times in the first chapter) lampshading by having Athena remark on how “almost stereotypical” her world is. The villainous teachers, school administrators, and honest-to-god cheerleaders are so cartoonishly evil that they reminded me of the teachers in Percy Jackson that turn out to be monsters. Only Percy Jackson plays that ridiculous, pointless meanness for laughs, and Rebel Girls plays it completely straight.

I am notoriously harsh on Catholic school representations, having attended one myself. I hoped that Rebel Girls would be better than poor examples like Heretics Anonymous since Keenan actually attended one herself, but no such luck. Keenan spends much more time info-dumping about the details of the school’s dress code than she does giving the reader any idea of the school culture. Rebel Girls portrays a very specific kind of Catholic environment (a southern evangelical-influenced community), but if I didn’t already know the difference, I likely wouldn’t have gotten anything from the book besides non-specific Christianity. The book reminds us often that the school has a “pro-life policy” (a basically meaningless phrase), but Keenan’s writing makes it clear she doesn’t have a handle on the abortion debate.
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It's 1992 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Athena and her sister Helen are being raised by a single dad who loves them, but works long hours to keep them enrolled in an expensive Catholic high school. The girls spend summers with their absent-minded, pro-choice, feminist college professor mother. Athena, a sophomore over-achiever who prefers not to draw attention to herself, and Helen, a freshman with brains and beauty who has dreams of being a model and strong pro-life views, do not really get along. Toss in Melissa, Athena's radically pro-choice, political activist BFF, Sean, the boy next door that has been Athena's friend since forever, and Leah, a typical "mean girl" from school who hates the sisters and just happens to be Sean's girlfriend, and you get Rebel Girls. While the book really doesn't live up to its title - the rebellion is pretty minor - it does make some pretty decent points about abortion, bullying, siblings, and girl's friendships.

While I did feel some of the action was unrealistic, I didn't feel like there was any more or less need for suspension of my disbelief than for any other fiction novel. From the blurb I anticipated that there would be more in-depth discussion of the Riot Grrrl movement than there actually was. Sure, Athena had some internal dialog where she mentioned wanting to be a Riot Grrrl as adhere to Riot Grrrl principles, but the ideas weren't fully explained or developed. I did, however, appreciate that Athena tried to take the high road when it came to retaliation for the bullying her sister endured.

Overall, this is a good solid YA read. I was entertained, but not enthralled. One caveat, although the discussion of abortion and religion was supposed to present both sides, I definitely felt like it had more of a pro-choice slant and at times the book felt a little anti-religion. (There were a couple super religious characters who were sympathetic and fair, but most were presented as being inflexible, intolerant, power hungry, and vindictive.)

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this book from in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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"Rebel girl! Rebel girl! Rebel girl, you are the queen of my world!". Athena attends a Catholic high school in Baton Rouge in the early 90s. This year, her little sister Helen is joining her. Helen is everything that Athena is not: she's outgoing, gorgeous, and popular. But when Athena's best friend's girlfriend spreads a rumor that Helen had an abortion over the summer after getting pregnant by a super racist classmate, Athena has to take matters into her own hands.

Events here echo the events of today fairly closely. This story is infuriating and extremely timely. Athena is a pro-choice feminist and she's just trying to figure out what that actually means to her, along with handling all the drama that happens for everyone in high school. She does a much better job at it than most of us do. This is a must read.
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Actual Rating: Did Not Finish
Recommend: Sure

So I like the plot and idea of this book, and I do think actual teen readers (the desired demographic for this book) would love it. I think the book attempts to tackle a controversial issue while also juggling familial bonds, friendship, sisterly spats, high school, first love, and finding your path.
I like how this book uses the punk Riot Grrl scene and the setting, but at about page 160 I had to give up. I wasn't loving the book. This book is written for teens, with characters that talk and act like teens, and that is all there is to say. I am not the desired reader, so it's just an issue with me, not the book.
Truly, I do think this is a great book teens will love and do recommend it.
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I grew up as a punk rock feminist teenager in the 1990's, so I was immediately drawn to this book. I loved it! The narrator, Athena, and her friend are exploring the riot grrrl movement of the early 90's as they attend their private Catholic high school that enforces a pro-life policy. Athena's musings on what it means to be a riot grrrl and her perceived failures and triumphs in adhering to the movement are spot on reflections for a girl of her age at this time in history. Even though I was more of a punk rocker than a riot grrrl, I loved the descriptions of the bands and the zines and the badges and everything that made up that subculture even down to local bands and all-ages shows which were not often accessible to Athena. And I really loved the acknowledgment in the historical note about how punk in the 90's took many different forms and girls interpreted their roles differently. Keenan really gets it! But what really takes the spotlight in this novel is the crushing rumors that Athena's very pro-life younger sister, a freshman, had had an abortion. Keenan shows how malicious gossip can ruin a teenager's life and there is much consideration of how much it matters if the rumors were true or not. This is a helpful perspective to the pro-choice point of view. I love how Athena's friend describes the pro-choice position as basically just being nonjudgmental. The girls' vigilante attempts at justice through riot grrrl culture of patches and badges is just beautiful. The girls in this novel, and the punk girls of the 90's, were really fighting for something. In what is often considered a slacker generation, Keenan's story reminds us that matters of gender rights, reproductive rights, and social justice were being proclaimed even among teenagers in small private schools.
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This is the story of Athena becoming a Rebel Grrrl and fighting for her sister and women everywhere. At least that’s how it’s sold. Really, it’s about Athena moving along with whatever happens to her and cramming as many 90’s music references in a book as much as possible. Athena is such a passive character in such an interesting and complex position; it is really disappointing. Against both her best friend and her sister, Athena could have been a foil and offered amazing commentary about the nuance of her situation, instead she just went as far as she felt comfortable and no farther.

I think this will be good for people who are just entering the world of feminism and feel nervous about how to navigate it.
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Rebel Girls takes on one of the most controversial and necessary subjects, abortion, but doesn't have the prose to back it up. 

The plot itself is an important one, especially showing two girls with differing opinions on abortion coming together. However, the writing had a lot of major flaws. The pacing in this one was like the world's worst roller coaster. Either nothing was happening for ages or everything was happening all at once for just a few moments. I found that almost everything was told and not shown. We were being told by the characters what they were doing and why. There was no room to make inferences or see their progress ourselves, it was told to us at every turn. Our main character's actions did not line up with her defining characteristic, being a feminist. 

This novel had a lot of potential but the mistakes above along with a lack of research meant this just didn't hit home for me. 

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Inkyard Press through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.*
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As soon as I heard about this book, I knew there was a good chance that I would love it:

1. It's set in the 1990s in the south (Baton Rouge, Louisana). 
2. The Riot Grrrl movement features heavily, especially Bikini Kill and their first tape.
3. It tackles an important topic -- abortion -- in a non-exploitative, non-melodramatic way.
4. It's written by a musicologist! (I'm a musicologist, but I've never met the author!)

I am happy to report that the book lived up to my expectations. I loved the characters -- even the minor characters had pretty distinct personalities, but I loved and identified with Athena, the narrator, so much. When we first meet her at the beginning of the book, she is content to live in the background of her high school, hanging with her two best friends, arguing with her little sister (who seems the polar opposite of her), listening to punk music, and deciding which patches and pins will best convey her music taste without featuring bands like Nirvana, who are suddenly famous and loved by everyone in her high school. By the end of the book, she's fundamentally the same person, but she's grown confident in her ability to stand up for what she believes is right, and she knows herself a little better. 

One of the things that most stands out to me about this book is that it is YA, but I think this one will have greater crossover appeal to adult readers who typically don't read YA (I'm an adult who happily reads YA from time to time, but in my year as a bookseller I met many who didn't, and I enjoyed trying to find YA books that I could sell to these adults). Yes, there are the first kisses, dating woes, mean girls, and homecoming drama that populate stories set in high school, but they're written about SO WELL, and I think the fact that the book is set in 1992 will make it appeal to older readers just for the nostalgia factor. Most of the book focuses on abortion, but rather than meeting a character who has had or wants an abortion right away, the topic is introduced because of false rumors being spread about the narrator's pro-life sister at their Catholic school. I think this is important because it immediately opens up a nuanced discussion of abortion; we get to see the girls figuring out what they think about it throughout the book. It's a pro-choice book, but the pro-life characters aren't written as villains. I appreciated this a lot.

I'd recommend this book to readers who enjoyed MOXIE and DUMPLIN'.
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Rebel Girls follows two sisters, the riot grrrl pro-choice Athena and the aspiring model pro-life Helen, as they face down rumors spread around their school about Helen. This book covers several issues besides abortion, but the focus remains there in this story set in a Catholic private school. Keenan's book is great because it doesn't attack either side of the debate, and the characters learn to get along and help each other despite their opposing viewpoints. Athena's character confused me at times because her actions seemed to go against the riot grrrl mentality she was so obsessed with creating, but overall I think this book can be good for the younger side of the young adult audience who are struggling to figure out who they are, who they want to be, and how they want to be politically active.
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Inkyard Press, 
Thank you so much for giving me an arc of Rebel Girls to review.  Unfortunately, I have decided not to finish this book at this time.  Some of the topics mentioned made my anxiety flair up, and I cannot bring myself to read any more at the moment.  I may return to it at a later date.  I wish this book all the best.  
Thank you,
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I wanted to love this book. I absolutely adored Moxie and when I heard this book was being compared to it, I got very excited. 

Although I think the topic is very important and I would definitely recommend this book to others, the writing style was just not for me. 

I felt the main character spent a lot of time explaining things and discussing how things in her life "worked." I would much rather have been shown these things through a series of actions or interactions with others as opposed to having several pages dedicated to stuff like "this is how the rules at my school work..." or other explanations along those lines. 

Because the writing style was not for me, I DNFed this book at around 20%. However, I still think the themes are very important and I think other people might really enjoy this book, so I would certainly recommend it to others.
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This was a cute blast from the past. I loved the 90s references and the focus of Riot Grrl culture. Athena Graves (awesome character name) has quite the story and this is her powerful journey of friendship, acceptance and perseverance under pretty extreme social circumstances. This book deals with some pretty heavy topics, but I think it was balanced out well. This would be a really good read for someone just out of high school, getting that perspective of what it would have been like for Athena might be really insightful.
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It's 1992 and Athena Graves is figuring out who she is in her Baton Rouge, Louisiana Catholic high school.  She has feminist views, a love for punk rock, and an appreciation for the up-and-coming riot grrrl movement after hearing a Bikini Kill demo while visiting her mom in Washington state over the summer.

Athena is shocked to hear a rumor spreading that her younger pro-life sister Helen had an abortion over the summer.  While the sisters know it didn't happen, Helen is embarassed and stunned when the guidance counselor removes her from the clubs she participates in based on the accusation.  How can a girl be punished for a vicious rumor and zero proof?

The sisters work together, despite their different views on abortion, to fight the unfairness of the situation.  The title implies rebellion but these girls are not rule breakers and they're still young enough to fear consequences, even if they feel they're standing up for what's right.  They work within the boundaries of the school's rules to speak out against the injustice in vague but obvious ways while holding back anger against the authority figures who are allowing the problems to continue.  In other words, the characters are completely realistic.

"I knew what the riot grrrl ideals were. Support girls around you. Don't be jealous of other girls. Avoid competition with them. Being loud and crying in public were valid ways of being a girl. Being a girl didn't mean being weak or bad. Claiming your sexuality, no matter what that meant to you, was a good thing. And the revolution was open to anyone." *

The story is genuine and it will offer nostalgia for readers who grew up in the 90's.  The atmosphere was perfect for the time period and the events are historically accurate.

Rebel Girls is a YA novel that looks at both sides of the abortion debate within an ultra-conservative and religious state.  It does so in a way that will be highly relatable for teens because it focuses on peer reaction and makes an honest effort to fairly portray each side without being preachy or political.
While the guidance counselor and the main "mean girl" could at times be caricatures of the controvery, it didn't go completely overboard.  There is some romance that didn't add to but also didn't overshadow the story.  
My favorite thing about Rebel Girls, other than the copious amounts of riot grrrl references, is that it focuses on girls supporting girls.  We do not have to share the same beliefs in order to lift one another up and encourage each other.

I recommend this book to readers who enjoy contemporary YA and feminism that looks at timely / controversial topics in fair and relatable ways.

Thanks to Inkyard Press and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.  Rebel Girls is scheduled for release on September 10, 2019.

*Quote included is from a digital advanced reader's copy and is subject to change upon final publication.
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When it is hot as heck outside and there is nothing cool to do but reading as everything else makes you end up a sweaty mess, it is the perfect day for a speed reader.			
I received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  			
From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸.			

In 1992 Baton Rouge, a single rumour has the power to change a girl’s life forever.

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 rumour starts spreading through the halls…a rumour that her popular, pretty, pro-life sister had an abortion over the summer. A rumour 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

Wow - a teen book that encompasses abortion, conservatism, feminism, dress codes and church-run schools. And bullying - not that they called it that then: I was bullied and was told it was "kids being kids". (I had to look up riot grrls --- (per Wikipedia) Riot grrrl protests began in the 1990s -  In 1991, young women coalesced in an unorganized collective response to several women's issues, such as the Christian Coalition's Right to Life attack on legal abortion and the Senate Judiciary Hearings into Anita Hill's accusations of sexual harassment by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.) So it is possible that in 1992 in Baton Rouge there were riot grrls - I just had to check that as I am a librarian! 

The book is well crafted and suitable for teens - I think that it is too early for tweens unless conversations about abortions have reached their minds. I imagine that they would in Catholic and other religion-based schools but in my wheelhouse, that is NOT a subject, in my honest opinion, to discuss with a child. Librarians should keep that in mind when suggesting this book to a tween or teen ... this book has its appropriate readers and those who should not read it - again, my honest opinion.  

Adults would enjoy it - I did. As always, I try to find a reason to not rate with stars as I love emojis (outside of their incessant use by "Social Influencer Millennials" on Instagram and Twitter) so let's give it some backpacks - the one thing at St. Ann's you are allowed to decorate. 🎒🎒🎒🎒🎒
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**Disclaimer: I received a free advanced reader copy of Rebel Girls by Elizabeth Keenan from Harlequin Teen through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to them for the opportunity!

Rebel Girls by Elizabeth Keenan is a contemporary historical fiction novel set in the early 90s in Louisiana. It comes out on September 10th, 2019. I gave it four stars on GoodReads, but it’s more of a 4.5 star read.

Here’s the summary from GoodReads:

In 1992 Baton Rouge, a single rumor has the power to change a girl’s life forever.
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.

This book was really cool! I found it on NetGalley because the cover caught my eye and I was really intrigued by it and the summary. When I started reading it, I was pleasantly surprised by the plot of it, because too be honest I had forgotten what it was about. It was fascinating how a novel set in the early 90s still contains such relevant issues to 2019. It was also really interesting to read a book set the year after I was born because I know surprisingly little about the early 90s.

The main character, Athena, was a very relatable protagonist. She wants to be a good feminist and identifies as a riotgrrl and pro choice despite the Catholic private school she attends. She struggles with trying to be positive with her thoughts when it comes to the other girls she interacts with despite some of them being truly awful. It’s something that I personally struggle with at times. I also related to her struggles about whether the guy she liked actually liked her or not.

All the characters in this book were fairly well developed. Athena was well rounded and dynamic, and I loved watching her relationship with her sister grow and develop. Her sister was also a well developed character and grew as a person over the course of the book. Obviously, not all the characters were round, but the side characters all served a purpose and there was no one that was really needlessly introduced.

The general girl power/girls supporting girls theme of this book was really well done and is still very relevant to today’s society. I know nothing about riotgrrls and that type of thing, but I found it really interesting to explore that through Athena and her best friend Melissa. Their friendship was a really strong feature of the book.

I won’t spoil the ending, but I felt that it was appropriate for a book about teenagers as there was a happy ending but not everything was perfectly resolved. It hinted towards a more positive future, and I think that’s the perfect way for a teen drama to end.

The discussion of abortion in this book was handled really well. The comparison of pro choice and pro life felt nuanced and in depth. There was a definite bias towards pro choice, which I personally appreciated, but the way certain characters expressed their views felt very realistic and Helen’s, Athena’s sister, growing understanding of the abortion debate was really interesting to watch.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I highly recommend it. So when September 10th rolls around, you should go check it out!
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Enjoyable as an "issue book" (feminism, abortion), a nineties period piece, and a classic YA relationship book. I especially appreciated how realistically Athena and Helen's bond developed over the story, and how Athena's riot grrrl principles came in conflict with her more retiring personality. Recommended for fans of Amy Reed's The Nowhere Girls or Jennifer Mathieu's Moxie, or those who enjoyed The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez.
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