Cover Image: The Girls I've Been

The Girls I've Been

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Member Reviews

Nora’s mom is a con artist who raised Nora follow in her footsteps. Nora eventually manages to leave the con game and lead a fairly normal life…until a bank robbery brings her old life and all the girls she’s been to the surface.

I truly enjoyed this story. Nora, Wes, and Iris are equal parts likable and flawed, and the story line moves quickly without feeling at all rushed.
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Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for granting me a free advanced copy of this book to read and review.
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Couldn’t put this one down! I loved the overall plot and then you got into the characters and the back story of each character … well written and each detail was thought of and written down so clearly.
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The Girls I've Been was a novel that surprised me. The premise was intriguing, but what struck me was how much the author accomplished within the narrative. The main character is bi (which I loved) and she has gone through so much. The narrative has so much in it and it's only a short amount of time. This novel made me realize that I like narratives that take place during a short span of time. This is truly a character study on a girl who is learning to love and be loved because the role models/parental guides did not do an adequate job. This novel explores how parental relationships shape the child and the work one must do to undo all the trauma imposed on us at a young age. Ultimately, this book is about love, trauma, and loss. I loved every second of it! From the characters to their relationships. I laughed and cried. I simply cannot wait for the adaptation and highly recommend everyone picks it up because there's great representation for bisexuality, endometriosis, and complicated parent-child relationships.
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4.5/5 stars. It’s been awhile since I’ve read this book but it’s following a girl names Nora but gets trapped In a bank robbery with her ex boyfriend and her current girlfriend. You’re going through many different dialogues within Nora, her sister and also just learning the intricate becomings of Nora. That was probably the most interesting part of the book for me, learning about her mother and how Nora came to be.
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I had no expectations going in to reading this novel, and it ended up really surprising me. I was glued to my seat and read this in pretty much one sitting. The characters and the plot really stood out and kept me hooked until the very end. This was a great read from an author I have enjoyed in the past. I think this would make a great movie adaptation. The only thing that kept this from being a 5 star read, was how easily it wrapped up in the end. But other than that, this was an excellent read!
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This was a wild ride. I love this writing style where it bounces back and forth. And the anger and fear just bounces off the page. It was hard to put down!
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I really enjoyed this one! The writing sucked me in from the beginning and the plot was great! This was a great read and I highly recommend picking it up!
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Nora was raised by her con artist mother to be many girls: whoever their mark needed her to be. When her mother falls for the criminal, abusive man she was supposed to be conning, though, Nora made a risky escape. Now, she’s been trying to live a normal life. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have that option anymore: she, her ex-boyfriend, and her girlfriend have been taken hostage by bank robbers.

I was immediately hooked by this premise. First of all, there is the awkward social situation of Nora, Wes, and Iris being trapped together: Wes walked in on them kissing and is not impressed that they’ve been keeping this a secret–they’re all supposed to be friends. Add a potentially deadly hostage situation, and you’ve got a guarantee of tension and drama. All I really needed was for this bisexual heist/con YA novel to live up to its premise, and did it ever.

When picking up a YA thriller, I wasn’t sure what to expect: some of the darkest books I’ve read have been YA, while others keep the blood off the page. This book definitely does not shy away from violence. In fact, there is a long list of serious trigger warnings attached to this. It also hits the ground running and never lets up: the bank robbery takes place on the second page of this novel. Nora is trying to find their way out of this situation, but she hasn’t told Iris about her past.

Interspersed with this tension are the stories of who Nora used to be. They don’t feel out of place or slow down the action, though: they are always relevant to what is currently happening, and the hints we get of her backstory makes me just as eager to find out about her past as reading about the hostage situation. Nora is an amalgamation of all the roles she’s had to play as a child: she doesn’t know how to be herself, and she’s not sure who she “really” is.

I also loved the supporting characters, who have been forged into this chosen family through their own trauma. Nora lives with her older sister, who she met later in life. Lee escaped from their mother, and she comes back to help Nora escape, too, when Nora is ready. Lee is also queer, though it’s not specified whether she’s bi or a lesbian. She is a badass private investigator who will do anything to protect Nora, including playing hostage negotiator.

Wes is Nora’s ex, but he’s also her closest friend, and the only one who knows her whole story. Wes is abused by his father, the mayor, and he spends most of his time with Nora and Lee. They bond over their shared experiences, and once Nora confronts his father with her own scheme to stop the violence, Wes realizes what she’s been hiding–she didn’t give that information away freely.

Nora’s girlfriend is an intensely memorable character. She loves vintage fashion, wants to be an arson investigator, and is fearless enough that she’s been banned from dares in truth or dare. She can hold her own against Nora, and they clearly adore each other–through Iris is angry that she’s been hiding things from her. She also has endometriosis, which I don’t think I’ve seen represented in a book before. A note in the back of the book explains that this is own voices representation and gives some resources.

I was completely absorbed into this story. It’s fast-paced thriller about misogyny, power, and abuse. Though Nora’s life is exceptional, she points out that misogyny and being threatened by men as a young woman is not unusual, and that it’s something she learned outside of her con artist upbringing. In fact, all of the main characters have been abused by someone with power over them. I also appreciated that therapy is openly discussed: Nora still is working through the trauma she’s gone through, but she’s made progress through therapy, and it’s how she’s able to open up–even a little.

This is one of my favourite reads in a long time. It’s one of those rare books that I was counting down the time until I would be able to read it again, and I stayed up to finish it. It’s hard to enthusiastically recommend a book that is so much about child abuse, but if you are a fan of thrillers that don’t shy away from darkness and violence, you won’t regret picking this up.

Trigger warnings: child abuse, violence, gore, murder, rape, child sexual abuse
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Everyone loves a good con artist story. It’s why we’ve got series about Anna Delvey and the Tinder Swindler. It’s why We got so many Ocean’s movies (which are dearly beloved in my family), When the con artist’s targets are terrible people, we love it all the more.

Well, Nora grew up the daughter of a con artist, but it’s all behind her now thanks to a rescue by her sister Lee and a few things she doesn’t talk about for a while. Then Nora, her best friend Wes, and her girlfriend Iris walk into the wrong bank at the wrong time and become hostages in an armed robbery—and since these robbers aren’t covering their faces, it’s clear they don’t intend to leave witnesses behind. Nora’s got a plan, though. She has several. It’s time to run a little con of her own.

I knew I was going to adore The Girls I’ve Been before I ever started it. How could I not love a robbery-thwarting thriller starring a bisexual con artist? It’s just good gay science! Even so, it still blew me out of the water. I’ve barely read anything the past few weeks because things at my job have ramped up, but this is a book I made time for.

Nora is whip-smart, able to come up with new plans on the fly based on what turns the situation takes and the few things she has at her disposal, like Iris’s petticoat, a lighter, and a few bottles of alcohol. The robbers’ plan is already off to a bad start since the bank employee they need isn’t there and Nora works hard to make sure they can’t get back on their feet. When she realizes the perfect hostage is in the building, her first order of business is to get them out to safety.

Between each turn in the rapidly devolving situation, readers get insights into Nora’s past as the daughter of sweetheart scam-running Abby Devereaux, being used as an accomplice and tool in her mother’s cons. Learn a new name while her mother brushed her long blonde hair, develop her character based on three key words, and do whatever she was asked to. This was her life for girl after girl.

But then Abby fell for her mark and Nora gained a vicious criminal for a stepdad. The things Nora did as Ashley Keane are so incredible that Ashley has become something of a myth in criminal circles. So much so that revealing that she’s Ashley to one of the robbers changes their plans entirely because she’s a much better payday than what the robbers were looking for.

Is this a believable book? Goodness no, but it’s enough fun that most people aren’t going to care. You’re in for a good time, not a logical one. If the latter is what you want, maybe try another book. Come for the fast-paced thrills and get just what you were looking for.

Now quit wasting time here. Go read The Girls I’ve Been if you haven’t already. Also feel free to inform her publisher that you really, really want the sequel Tess has been working on. Also follow her on social media if you aren’t ready. If you’re a writer, she’s got a ton of informative posts and Twitter threads about the many facets of the publishing industry she’s experienced as an author with many more books to her name than just the ones with “Tess Sharpe” on them.
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The Girls I've Been is a high octane thriller that does not mince any of its impact message. Sharpe crafts a unique narrative that is surprising and revelatory.
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Loved this book and the premise! Felt the end was a bit rushed but I actually wish this became a series cause wow that was good! 	** spoiler alert ** I loved iris so much and I really thought she was gonna die at the end LOL
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Didn't capture my attention and engagement. Interested in trying it again though and hopefully it will take.
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4.5 to maybe 5 stars. This was so good. The story starts with our protagonist, her best friend/ex-boyfriend, and her current girlfriend going to make a bank deposit…and the banks is held up. Chapters alternate between present tense & the past, all from our protagonist’s point of view. She has had many aliases during her life, but I will refer to her as Nora. She is a survivor, a thief, and a con artist. She’s a girl “whose bones got forged from secrets instead of steel.” Along with the aliases, Nora has been subjected to repeated emotional abuse by her grifter mother and physical abuse from her mother’s marks. It’s a YA novel, but it’s gritty and has lots of F-bombs. 

The author narrates the audiobook & has excellent delivery. The final published version has a fantastic list of resources for anyone who is a victim of abuse. It also has a special note about endometriosis, a chronic disease from which the author, myself, & one of the characters suffer.
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So good! I can’t wait to see how they incorporate the book with the movie on Netflix and Millie will make the perfect Nora!
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Ex-grifter, bisexual Nora is not having a good day. Her ex-boyfriend, Wes, walks in on her kissing her current girlfriend and their mutual friend, Iris. Before the three can work it out, however, a bank robbery breaks out and they're all taken hostage. With no guarantee that they'll make it out alive, Nora must make use of a past she’s tried to leave behind to save Wes, Iris, and herself.  Drawing on her childhood spent with her abusive, con artist mother, can Nora save the day?  Sharpe does a great job of balancing Nora's childhood trauma related to psychological and sexual abuse with her present-day situation. The book is action-packed and adds a lot of mystery into the plot. The pacing is funky in the last act, but characters are complex and engaging. Older readers who like mystery/thrillers and action plots with underlying childhood trauma will want to pick up this one.
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I really enjoyed this book. Nora, her ex-boyfriend, and her current girlfriend get caught up in a bank heist that quickly goes very, very wrong. The story of the heist is interwoven with Nora's childhood, where she grew up as a child of a con artist. From the time she was small, her mother has given Nora different names and identities to help her con bad men out of money. Each girl gives Nora the skills she needs to survive and get the other hostages out of the bank.

Normally a story that bounces around in time this much would annoy me, but Sharpe balances the shifts in time with the current narrative and allusions to things that will happen to Nora's past self before her sister saves her from the con artist ways of their mother. I really appreciated the personalities of Nora's friends and how they were developed with their own voices in a way that felt natural and like a teenager. This is a fun book with tension, character development, and some unexpected moments.

We read this as a possible nominee for our internal Printz Award committee. It narrowly missed being in the top 10 nominees.
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Oh wow! I'm so sad I put this book off for way too long. It is a must read, and needs more attention. 

This story is like an onion that kept peeling itself open, and I'm not even sure if we really got down to the center of it and discovered fully who our MC is. As she is a lost girl, lost in her own past life (lives?). 

We start with Nora, who tells us right away, that is not her name. Because she has had many names. And her name is the one secret she keeps close. She is a daughter of a con artist. Her mom. She runs a sweetheart con, but she picks bad men, where they are doing something shady so once they get conned, they wouldn't reach out to cops. Till one day her mom actually falls for one of the bad men. It doesn't end well. 

Nora, as she wants to be known, finds herself in a bank heist, part of the group of people that get stuck inside with the bad guys. And she wants to get out alive. She will do anything to get out alive. And she tells us her past story, her past lives trying to explain how she came to be smart enough to smart out a couple of baddies. 

It was a phenomenal story. Full of pain, and love, and survival. It is worth a read! It broke my heart more than once.
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Suffice to say this book entirely caught me by surprise, which is really a given considering I didn't expect much going into it. And somehow, this managed to slap me in the face several times over and dunk me in ice water, all in a deliciously intriguing way.
I immediately found myself terribly fond of the characters, and there's real humanity in each of their features and flaws that I find a lot of similar books missing. Nora's internal conflict was heart-wrenchingly relatable and the consistency of it really impressed me. Too often I see YA giving characters really interesting and complex conflicts, only for it to be thrown away in favor of the femme fatale "aesthetic," but Sharpe conquers this perfectly.
The only thing I would cherry-pick would be the pacing of the robbery. The whole story is very fast-paced, and that's part of its appeal, but I sometimes found myself zoning out at moments where it felt like it was happening in real-time. I guess real-time is too slow for me, but that is entirely up to preference.
Altogether, I highly recommend this and I will be looking for more from Sharpe in the future. I also think that no matter where you lean, you might as well give it a shot, because you will know if you like it very quickly. Take that as you will, and happy reading!
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I just totally loved this dark YA thriller!  I just loved this sapphic story with these three teens trying to make it in-spite of the trauma and abuse and all the odds. A beautiful story of courage that had me on the edge of my seat.
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