Cover Image: The Girls I've Been

The Girls I've Been

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Member Reviews

This book was not quite what I expected it to be, but I still enjoyed it. It was thrilling, heart-breaking, and humorous!

First, I love the way the book was set up. It showed current events, past events, and police transcripts. At the beginning of each current event chapter, it told how long they had been held captive, what tools they had at their aid, and what their working plan was. I loved seeing these features of the book. They added some humor and helped me keep track of how things were going. The past events spilled our main character, Nora's, secrets. It told of the cons she was forced to run with her mom and her part in them. They were insightful and often heart-breaking. But necessary for the book, nevertheless. And the police transcripts helped give an insight into what was happening currently outside of the bank. Those were also insightful and a little humorous at times.

Second, I want to talk about our main character. We learn so much about Nora throughout the entire book through these 'past event' chapters. We also get to see some of her humor, love, and intelligence in the chapters that are taking place at the current time. Nora is such an interesting character because she went through so much and has seen/done more than any person should have to. The depth of Nora's strength and resilience is incredible. I didn't truly appreciate her character until towards the end of the book after I had learned most of her secrets.

Due to Nora's tough past, this book covers some heavy topics. Emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, cheating, lying, murder, etc. These are just a few things that this book mentions in some way or another. I think the author did a great job of balancing these dark and heavy parts of this book with the humous and thrilling bits. I was left with a sense of hope at the end which was nice considering everything that was mentioned throughout the book.

Overall, I enjoyed getting to know Nora (along with Iris and Wes), learning about her difficult life, and seeing how much strength one person can have to make it through anything.
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Thanks to Penguin Teen for providing me with an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!

First and foremost, if you're thinking about reading this book I highly suggest looking up trigger warnings because there are quite a few. And for that reason precisely I would only recommend this book to those ages 16+. 

I really enjoyed the layout of this book and how each of the chapters and acts were set up. All the different timelines came together nicely, and the flashback stories really added a lot of depth to each of the characters. 

This was also very different than what I was expecting. Although the plot was somewhat predictable, I didn't mind because the point of the book wasn't to have multiple plot twists (although there were still a few!). 

While jarring at first, I ended up really enjoying the tone and voice the author used throughout the novel from Nora's pov to tell the story. There was also an instance of breaking the fourth wall which I found was done very well in that it added to the story rather than distracted.

The first two or three chapters were confusing and also very slow and the prose was jarring - but as I said before things start to make sense and the prose grew on me!

The last few chapters felt dragged out, and some things that happened seemed very implausible/pulled out of thin air. 

Overall, this was a very interesting read that was very different from what I am used to.
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I seriously could not put The Girls I’ve Been down and I am so excited that it’s already being adapted by Netflix (Millie Bobby Brown is 100% a perfect fit for the role!!)

If, like me, you loved the first three seasons of Veronica Mars and nothing has quite filled that void since, you need to pick this book up. Nora reminded me so much of Veronica, except for the fact that she’s a somewhat reformed con artist instead of a detective. This one is a bit difficult to review without spoiling and I would absolutely recommend going in as spoiler-free as possible.

Sharpe did a fantastic job with the tension, I was at the edge of my seat the entire time. The flashbacks worked incredibly well. However, I would HIGHLY recommend looking up content warnings for this book if you need them.

Overall, I loved this book, even though it ended up being about 100% darker than I would have expected based on the summary.
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The youngest daughter of a serial con woman, Nora has had to assume many identities over the years while helping her mother with her grifting schemes against bad men. So when she just so happens to be at the scene of a bank robbery, the robbers have no idea what they’ve got themselves into. 

Beyond the present day story, you also get glimpses of the abuse Nora suffered at the hands of her mother’s marks, ultimately leading up to the mark her mom fell in love with, the worst of them all. There are heavier discussions of trauma and recovery woven into the story, not just with Nora but with her two closest friends and her sister as well. The way Nora grapples with the morally gray moments of how she’s defended herself in fight or flight moments adds an extra layer of substance and depth. 

And of course, I loved the bisexual rep as well as the brief mention of her girlfriend Iris’ endometriosis. 

Just a really unique story that I can’t wait to watch come to life!
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So this book was perfect. It's so well written that it was a struggle to even put it down. I had to finish it in a day.
You feel like you know Nora immediately because of how strong her characterization is, but then as you read you realize you don't know her as well as you thought you did. The tension between Nora, Wes, and Iris also heightened the stakes in this story as they need to find a way out of the situation while being upset with each other. Wes was the only guy in this story that deserved rights though. Also, I don't think I've read a book with a character who has endometriosis, so that was a great addition to the story. YA books are really it.
I already know that I'm going to buy a copy of this because I need it on my shelves. It's a commentary on so many things, but I loved the way it talks about the treatment of girls in society, trauma, coping strategies, and the lies we tell ourselves and others. You just want to hug so many of the characters in this book (and help them get revenge). Looking at Nora's past and present, vigilante justice can seem thrilling, but you also see the negative impact it has on the way she sees herself and forms connections with others.
I could keep going on about the characters, the structure of the book, Nora’s past, but I really can't say enough good things about this, so read it. Read it. Read it.
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Nora O'Malley is having an awkward morning. Her best-friend Wes (who also just happens to be her ex) walked in on her and her girlfriend Iris (who happens to be good friends with both of them) making out last night. Today they all have to meet up at the bank to deposit the fundraiser money they got. It shouldn't take long, and Nora can bear it. But when they walk into the bank, it is that moment that someone decides to rob it, and then Nora, Iris, and Wes become hostages.
Things quickly go downhill and Nora worries that she and her friends may not make it out alive, but she has an ace up her sleeve. Nora O'Malley is the daughter of a con-woman. She was raised in the con. She has been many different girls in her life and has gotten herself out of many situations. Now she has a new mark, and she'll do whatever she has to in order to get everyone out alive.

The Girls I've Been is an incredible story about how our past affects our future. How the people who raise us impact who we are. How hard it is to know who you are when you always had to be someone else. It's not a pretty story. There is pain, there is anger, there is suffering. There is horrible things that happen to a child that should have never happened. But there is growth too. There is healing, though it is an upward battle. There is light and love and friendship mixed in with all the darkness.

In just over 300 pages we follow the events of the bank robbery, but we also go to the past. We see the different girls Nora has been. We see what she had to do; what her mother taught her and how she can use it today. We also see glimpses of what is happening just outside the bank with Nora's sister, Lee, who has once again come to her rescue.

I'll say it outright, I could not find anything I did not like about this book. I liked just about everything. And what did I love? The relationships in this book. Nora and Lees, Nora and Wes, Nora and Iris, Wes and Lee, Iris and Wes. All of these characters experienced being alone. At one point in time or another, they had no one to lean on. Yet over time, they found each other; now they didn't have to go through life alone. For Nora, that's a difficult adjustment, which is great to see and it's executed perfectly. She's the one who has always protected everyone else; she's always the one who saves the day. Now she's got to work together with her friends and it's amazing.

I loved the writing, I loved the plot, I loved the flashbacks, I loved the dialogue, I loved the first-person format, I loved the characters, I loved the character growth...I loved this book. It was excellent and I can't wait to tell everyone I know about it. If you like mysteries, if you like thrillers, if you like to sit on the edge of your seat unable to put a book down because you're dying to know what happens next, The Girls I've Been is for you. I hope you'll read it because you will not be disappointed.
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Definitely a really fun read! The story kept me entertained the whole time. Full review on my tiktok @torireadsthings
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Overall: Tess Sharpe continues to bring thrilling stories to life while weaving in tales of survival.

Nora. She is a complex morally grey character and it was really interesting seeing all the lives she had lived.
Tess Sharpe’s intense story-telling. I know when I pick up a Tess Sharpe book, that I am in for something intense and the robbery was just the surface level in this one.
Bisexuality. I love how Tess Sharpe never makes this a big deal in her stories. The characters at the beginning are more in their situation due to a lack of sharing about the new relationship than anything else.
Found family. Yes, it is Nora, her ex and her new girlfriend, but at the end of it they are a found family.

The story is told through short chapters that flip between past and present. While this was not an issue for me, it could be bothersome for other readers.
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I went into this thinking it was going to be a cute read with Veronica Mars vibes, boy was I wrong. Yes, I did get a badass female character but it was also filled with twists and tough issues you don't see coming, at least I didn't. The author really makes you feel for the characters and makes you wonder what you would do in certain situations. 

Overall it was a good read so much so that I am going to purchase a hard copy when it is released. I enjoyed the characters and the dedication/loyalty they have for each other.
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What grabbed my attention immediately when I read the synopsis of this book was how unique it was! The majority of the book we closely follow the events of the bank robbery, but we also see into Nora's past with her con artist mother. I felt that the switch between these perspectives was very well balanced with perfect transitions and breaks in the story. We also had a variety formats to the writing, going between Nora's first person perspective of both the past and present, as well as some transcripts of phone calls and radio recordings. I flew through this book! It has such a binge worthy quality to it. The writing flowed very well and was consistent throughout the book. One aspect that I enjoyed the most was the humour in the writing and in Nora's character. While there was action and tense situations on every page, there was also humour to balance it out. One of my favourite lines from the book was "We're all going to die because I waited for the bacon donuts." At many points I was smiling while reading, but on the other hand the sombre topics that weren't diminished in any way by this. I really enjoyed reading about the characters in this book. My favourite character would have to be Nora but Iris is a close second. The romance between the two is very sweet and I was rooting for them from the very beginning. I loved how different they were and how well they knew each other and how to comfort each other. I would've liked for a more definitive ending but it still was satisfying. I also wished that we got to know certain characters more.  Nora's relationship with her sister Lee was also something I enjoyed reading about. A strong sibling bond is something I love to see in young adult books, 

I definitely recommend this to anyone looking for an exciting, fast paced queer thriller!
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The Girls I’ve been is a young adult contemporary thriller about a trio of teens stuck in the middle of a small town bank robbery. 

The story is told from the first person POV of Nora as she navigates her role as a hostage and tries to figure out what she can use to survive and get her two best friends (also current and ex lovers) Iris and Wes out safely. It also goes back in time and details some of the girls she pretended to be as a child to help with her mother’s sweetheart cons. It becomes rapidly clear that more often than not Nora’s experiences with the men her mother chose were traumatizing and abusive culminating in Ray, the gangster her mother left the con life for. Now five years later Nora is living under an assumed name and trying to put the past behind her. 

The dialogue of The Girls I’ve Been is snappy and fun and you can’t help but root for Nora and her friends. The part I struggled with is just how cartoonishly EXTRA everyone is. Lee, her older sister and P.I. is practically mythical in her badassery. Because her mother purposely chose men to grift that were hiding things each man was worse than the next culminating in Raymond who is fat cat villain from every action movie. Wes’s father the mayor? Horrific abuser. Iris’s absentee father? Controlling abuser. And Iris herself (Nora’s girlfriend) is a vintage wearing teenage beauty that can also make a bomb out of common household materials or her petticoats. But at the core of it is Nora is a 17 year old near genius at reading people and hatching plans. I can see how this has already been optioned for a movie. The characters are all bigger than life and that will translate well on the screen. But in a book I prefer for a little more subtlety. 

In the end, I give The Girls I’ve Been 3.75 stars (rounded up to 4). Although it is paced much like an action movie there is a lot of food for thought about trauma, abuse, found families and freedom. 

* a review copy was provided by Netgalley as part of the YALLWrite/Penguin Young Readers sweepstakes
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Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live on a run, to never get a minute of rest, to constantly look over your shoulder, wondering if every breath will be your last? Nora, the main protagonist of The Girls I've Been, has exactly that life. After being born to a con woman who excelled at the 'sweetheart' con, Nora's life was never going to be normal. She started running the cons with her mother as soon as she was able to, still a little kid when her mother first gave her a new name and reinvented her into someone sweeter, quieter, someone befitting her mark. Six years of dangerous cons, entangling with dangerous men, and shedding her former identities like last season's fashion. Rebecca, Samantha, Haley, Katie, and Ashley; all girls who could keep her mother comfortable, each one teaching the girl inside something new.

"Girls like me, we prepare for the storm."

After she finally escapes the endless cons with help from her estranged sister, she finally gets a chance to live, but in hiding, yet live nonetheless. But as Nora, the girl who was here to stay and to be safe in this new, mundane life with her sister, gets taken hostage in a bank robbery, and it seems that her cover might collapse. She would do anything to save the people in the bank with her, the people she loves most, her girlfriend Iris and her ex-boyfriend turned best friend Wes. Even if it's by revealing who she really is to the dark underworld which knows the story of an escaped stepdaughter turned snitch of a powerful criminal. Can she keep her secrets and save the new reality she carved out for herself or will the past catch up with her yet?

The Girls I've Been is, at its core, a story of survival. It's about going through the most horrible events and coming out battered and bruised, with memories that will plague your mind till your dying day, but surviving. Nora said it best in one of her many insightful moments, where we got to learn her story piece by piece:

"I hate the whole 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger' saying. It's bullshit. Sometimes what doesn't kill you is worse. Sometimes what kills you is preferable. Sometimes what doesn't kill you messes you up so bad it's always a fight to make it through what you're left with. What didn't kill me didn't make me stronger; what didn't kill me made me a victim. But I made me stronger. I made me a survivor."

Nora's tale starts strong, with her and her friends being taken hostage, and the wild rollercoaster ride doesn't let out until the very end. There are a lot of time jumps as we move from the bank robbery to Nora's many past experiences and the cons she's led with her mother, and this format works perfectly with the story. It reveals little bits and pieces of Nora's life to the reader without being info dumpy or too heavy. Some small parts are kept a secret till the very last chapters, building up the anticipation and ending on just the twist this story needed for it to work as amazingly as it did.

The Girls I've Been presents us with a beautiful trio of friends that are a perfect example of a found family, all with their own scars (physical and metaphorical), but determined to stay by each other. Throughout this high-stakes robbery, the trio is forced to face the ugliest truths and deep-buried secrets, opening up little by little even if it hurts in order to work together as best they can and survive the predicament they've found themselves in. Through it all, the author kept a steady hand, dealing with the traumatic experiences of their pasts with sensitivity without minimising the extent of the influence they had on their lives and mental health. One of the most important things was the ease with which therapy was discussed because while we do live in a world that is more open to issues regarding mental health, getting help and going to therapy is still sometimes treated as taboo, and Nora and her older sister Lee having a therapist was written in as something completely ordinary, which it is.

This book is full of quotes and moments that will bring tears to your eyes, that will make you scream in rage at the unfairness of the world, that will make you question how our society still treats women. As Nora deals with her past, in tiny bursts of pain and acceptance, she gives the reader a chance to feel what she feels and see all she's been through.

"I see the steel wrapped in fear that all little girls find on the spike-strewn road to womanhood."

Sharpe masterfully told a story of survival while also weaving in beautiful friendships, a sapphic main relationship you will root for from the get-go, a medical condition (Iris's endometriosis), and many witty remarks that will make you laugh out loud even in the direst of scenes. A beautiful ode to the strength and an elegy to the infinite struggles of women, The Girls I've Been  will hook you from the start and make you think about Nora and her story long after you've closed the book.

Now, go do yourself a favour and pick up this heart-wrenching story about con artists, bank robbery, life on the run, and of course, hope and love, before the Netflix adaptation (with the talented Millie Bobby Brown as Nora) hits our little screens! You won't want to miss it!
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“You can’t con a con artist. Isn’t that what they always say?”

Content warnings from the author:

The Girls I’ve Been at it’s base is a twisty YA thriller following a teenage girl named Nora, who was raised by a con artist to be a con artist. She, her best friend, and her girlfriend are being held hostage in a bank heist, and Nora uses her retired con savvy to hopefully get them out alive. If you read TGIB, then you will find the story is more than a YA thriller. It’s an exploration in healing and survival after experiencing trauma, navigating many forms of love, and a fictional look at a mother/daughter con team relationship, that I’m sure will feel scary relatable for many who have toxic relationships with their mother.

I honestly enjoyed this book quite a bit. It was way deeper than I expected, and I truly felt connected in so many ways to Nora. Not only her though, because even her friends and family grab you, and you’ll want more and more of them. The thrilling aspect of the story would be enough alone, but the emotional and deep parts of this story take it to another level for me. They are that boost from entertaining, to entertaining and impactful for me.

The pacing of this story is good. The chapters are quick, and the dialogue and story are as well. There is a back and forth of time jumping, and it personally took me awhile to adjust, because as I said the chapters are quick, so I felt like I was moving on as soon as I was adjusted in one time frame. That said the time jumps were necessary to establish Nora as a character, and to explore why she is who she is. So they were worth it even if I felt a little bouncy at first.

The end gave me chills. I can’t say much without spoiling, but it’s poetic and the perfect end. So to close. If you’re looking for a YA that’s thrilling, mysterious, dark fun, and also has that deep emotional edge, then you MUST pick up The Girls I’ve Been on January 26th!
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The Girls I’ve Been is a mystery thriller that takes place inside a bank. 
What happens when the daughter of a con artist is held hostage by a bank robber? 

I wasn’t sure what I was expecting but it wasn’t this! I mean that in the best way. This book was a fun ride, it was hard to put it down. The writing was fantastic and I just breezed through it. 

The story is told by Nora, we get the events from the bank but also her past and how she became Nora. There’s some difficult topics in this book so keep that in mind. (TW: child abuse, domestic abuse, violence) 

I really loved Nora, she was a bad ass character and I was rooting for her the whole time. 

If you enjoy YA I highly recommend this book!
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This one starts with a bang with a bank hostage crisis, then we work back through Nora's history as a con artist's daughter (and apprentice). What we uncover are a lot of details about trauma, insidious parenting, and the power of reinvention. Overall a fun read and best for more advanced/mature teens than younger ones, given the subject matter.
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I read this book in one sitting. I was hooked on this book from the very beginning, and it is was one of the best contemporary books I have read in a long time. Sharpe not only wrote an incredibly tense and thrilling story, but she also managed to include a heartbreaking character background that allows the reader to see how far some people are forced to go to survive. This book had basically everything I could have asked for. It had amazing LGBTQ+, a fast placed and constantly twisting plot that left me begging for more once the book was over, and a story of survival that moved me to tears but also showed that Nora truly was the survivor in her story, and was not a victim to be blamed. 

I don't have enough words to describe how amazing this story was, and I will be reading more from Sharpe as soon as possible. 

"You get to choose," aka the line that broke my heart and put it back together again.
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The Girls I’ve Been was a thriller with a refreshing premise. The story itself only takes place over the span of a couple of hours, but by the end I felt as if I knew these characters so well. 

Nora was always a con artist. Her mom taught her how to be the best assistant in a con. When Nora finds herself in the middle of a bank heist, she has to figure out a way to get out safely. Nora is such a complex character. She has led hundreds of lives-- each one shaping who she became as an adult. Iris is amazingly funny and unique. The chapters alternate between the bank heist (modern day), and Nora’s past lives. The plot is fast-paced and the jumping between past and present feels seamless. 

I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
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With the voice and wit of a comedy but the heart and soul of a drama, this book absolutely blew me away. The way Nora's life unfolded in tandem with the present events kept all the plots tense and tight throughout the entire reading experience. Every character, even those who were only present for a few scenes or flashbacks felt so fleshed out and real, for better or worse. The relationships between Nora, her sister, her ex-boyfriend, and her girlfriend were so layered with love and history and evoked some of the greatest found family energy I've yet to read in a realistic fiction novel. In addition to the thoughtfully explored themes of assault, trauma, abuse, and reclamation of autonomy, the prose itself was incredibly quotable and beautiful. I genuinely adored this book with my entire being and will happily recommend it to anyone looking for something equal parts heartbreaking, uplifting, humorous, and entertaining.
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A dark YA thriller, like a teen version of Good Behavior. The characters and their beautifully strong bonds really stand out, and Nora’s narrative voice is especially clear. Even the more procedural aspects of the robbery plotline, which could have come off as dull or drawn out or far-fetched, seemed interesting and well thought out. I did feel a little let down by the results of the robbery, and the back and forth playing around with the timeline sometimes robbed the action of its punch or gave me the same sense I get when I start a book without realizing that it was a sequel, but overall the story is very confidently told - Sharpe’s writing is quite solid, letting you know that if you don’t understand everything now, she’ll get you there in the end. Action-packed but full of heart, recommend to those who enjoyed Six of Crows but like contemporary stories as well, or those looking for something along the lines of Alex Rider or Heist Society but with more intensity.
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Thank you to the publisher, Penguin Random House Canada, and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What starts out as an ordinary, if awkward morning depositing money turns deadly for Nora, her girlfriend Iris and her ex-boyfriend Wes as they find themselves in the midst of a bank robbery. But Nora is not any ordinary girl. The daughter of a con-artist, she was raised as her protégé and has played many roles in the past. And now, five years after escaping that life and building something resembling normality, it’s time for her to pull out those old skills again in order to save herself and her friends.

This was an action-packed story right from page one and the author wastes no time getting things underway. It was a thrilling read especially considering that the entire present day timeline takes place over only a couple of hours. The narration style keeps the tension sky high and this is a book that is impossible to put down. As the hostage situation in the bank escalates, Nora’s life unfolds in parallel, bringing to light the stories of her past identities, the most recent of which makes her a valuable bargaining piece to the robbers. It was quite fascinating to learn about what her life was like, and how it has affected her.

Nora was a fantastic character – she’s a fighter and a survivor and her past experiences have only made her stronger. Iris and Wes were also well-developed characters even if I do think that Wes should have gotten a little more page time. Iris on the other hand, was amazing, and I loved how resourceful she was, coming up with a plan to escape using what was at hand.

As much as I enjoyed learning about Nora’s past, the flashbacks were too fragmented, at least in the beginning, and it was rather annoying to be drawn away from the main story which was starting to get really interesting. On the plus side though, it’s perfectly possible to enjoy this even if the pieces take a while to come together, even if I would have liked for the story to have gone a little more in depth into Nora’s past.

This book was not entirely what I expected, but it was a wonderful read and I am definitely looking forward to checking out other books by this author. The Girls I’ve Been is apparently going to be a Netflix movie and I can’t wait to see what it turns out like, because this is the kind of story that could actually be even better on screen. There is some potential for a second book since there are still a few things left unresolved, but it’s nicer this way, so I doubt I’d read a sequel. Highly recommended!
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