Cover Image: The Girls I've Been

The Girls I've Been

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I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  This book disappointed me as the book "blurb" made it sound like a different story than what I experienced.  Nora and her friends get caught in a bank while its being robbed.  The entire book is spent with them trying to escape.
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A fantastic thriller full of amazing twists! I loved the twisty nature of this book, and how Nora's story unfolded slowly.
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The Girls I've Been is a fun, thrilling YA read full of unexpected and well-executed twists and turns. It's unlike any other YA book I've read before, and it's uniqueness was a great selling point to encourage me to pick up the book in the first place. Once the plot picked up, it was impossible to put down and the great writing easily carried me through the story. The plot touched upon important topics and the characters were all fascinating and well-developed. I highly recommend this book to any fans of YA.
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There are much better reviews out there than mine that will do this book more justice.  I will say this, check the content warnings before reading.  Otherwise, strap in and hang on for a ride.  It starts off in the morning with three people going to a bank to make a bank deposit and Tess, the main protagonist, realizes that her past may help them got out of the bank robbery they end up in the middle of.  The way that the bank robbery plays out in real time interspersed with Tess's past slowly being revealed from when she was just a child is so fluid and just keeps you on your toes.

Content warnings from the author:
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Tess Sharpe’s books are always cutting, both her characters and her writing sharp and smart. I love her portrayal of messy, morally grey girls, a little broken and battered but still fighting to survive. The way she writes trauma and abuse in The Girls I’ve Been is heartbreaking and nuanced, and I appreciate how Sharpe never shies away from the messier sides of survival and treats characters with so much grace and respect. 

This book does a beautiful job of showing healing with other people who have been through similar pain, but I of course was engrossed in Nora’s story particularly. She has several past identities who all “taught” her something in their own ways, and how she lives now was shaped by her mother and every man they conned. She is trying to figure out how exactly she fits into the world, especially as someone who was never allowed to exist as herself and was always forced into another girl’s identity. So many parts of her story felt like a punch in the gut, but it only made her growth throughout the short time span of the book all the more compelling and moving to read.

I was also impressed by the execution of dual timelines in this book—you are kept on your toes as the past slowly unravels, and there’s no drop in suspense between the various timelines. The main plot point of the book (a bank heist) also only lasts a few hours, but it doesn’t feel dragged out or boring. I think one of the main reasons I don’t particularly care for thrillers in comparison to other genres is because there is a larger emphasis on plot and suspense/mystery rather than characters, but The Girls I’ve Been is a delightful combination of both. This is the second YA thriller I’ve read from Sharpe, but I think she’s truly a master of the genre like no other. 

There’s something very special about this book, in the way that it presents characters who aren’t truly okay but are slowly learning to be. Terrible things happen to them, especially by the hands of men, but there’s still a sense of hope. It’s not false, unrealistic optimism, but a quiet, fervent belief that they have their own identity and agency to reclaim, certainly impacted by the trauma they faced but not defined by it. It is this that is so powerful about The Girls I’ve Been—and particularly the ending—and makes it so memorable. This is truly a book I won’t forget, and I couldn’t recommend it more.
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The Girls I've Been by Tess Sharpe; G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, 368 pages ($18.99) Ages 14-17.


An 18-year-old girl who escaped a life of crime as a partner in her mother's con games finds herself relying on her unique skill set when she interrupts a bank robbery in this high-octane thriller already optioned by Netflix (to be produced by and starring Millie Bobby Brown, of "Enola Holmes"). 

Rescued from her grifter-mother by an older sister, Nora has been keeping a low profile, living a normal life and going to school when she and her ex-boyfriend, Wes, and current girlfriend, Iris, arrive at the bank in their small California town to deposit money from a charity event and find themselves in the middle of a bank robbery.

The first-person narration shifts from the present, as Nora desperately tries to save Wes and Iris and the other hostages by conning the thieves, to the past, telling the story through flashbacks of the girls she has had to be to assist her mother in her schemes, dyeing her hair, wearing the outfits, assuming whatever persona was required for her mother to secure the mark, as she became, in turn, Rebecca, Samantha, Haley, Katie, Ashley.

It's clear that Nora has survived horrifying psychological and sexual abuse and has paid a terrible price for the personality shape-shifting her scheming mother required of her as a little girl. While the final chapters slow down the break-neck pace that propels the rest of the novel, Sharpe has a real flair for action scenes and character development.
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What an excellent premise! A bank robbery - three teens amongst the hostages - and one that has mad skills. Nora knows how to read people, how to manipulate them. She knows what needs to be done and adapts as things change. Her grifter skills are well honed.

I love kick butt female characters and Nora is most definitely one! Her background lends her to many talents, mind sets, strengths, weaknesses and more. The three supporting players are all just as well drawn, coming in with their own unique skills and histories. The relationship between the three teen characters is real and really well portrayed. The reader can't help but be on their side in all things.

"Me, I was born into the con. Came into the world with a lie on my lips and the ability to smile and dazzle, just like my mother. Charm, people call it. Useful is what it is. To see into the heart of someone and adjust accordingly, instantaneously, to mirror that heart? It's not a gift or a curse. It's just a tool."

Sharpe draws out the revelation of Nora's life (lives) in detailed chapters interspersed between the current day's events. We come to know how she became the girl she is today - and why. 

The situation in the bank is a non-stop page turner and reads like an action movie - which I loved. But amongst all that action are some weightier issues. Gentle readers, there are some triggers. 

This reader loved The Girls I've Been .... and I'd like to know what happens after the final pages. Maybe we could have another book with Nora, Wes and Iris? What do you think Tess Sharpe?

And this! "Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown is set to lead the cast in a Netflix film based on Tess Sharpe's novel, The Girls I've Been, which will be published in 2021. The 16-year-old actress is producing the project alongside Ozark actor-director Jason Bateman." Oh yeah!
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The Girls I’ve Been is the darkly funny story of the daughter of a con artist as she finds herself held hostage during a bank heist. When we meet her in this story, she’s Nora O’Malley, but before that she was Ashley, and before that Katie, Haley, Samantha, and Rebecca. Nora is obviously an unreliable narrator, but her voice was just so fun. She has a warped sense of humor about the whole situation, which really comes out in her inner monologue. The Girls I’ve Been alternates between the hours that Nora is held hostage at the bank, along with her current girlfriend Iris, ex-boyfriend Wes, and the bank manager’s daughter Casey, and through her five previous identities over the years.

I like to think that I’m a well-adjusted young woman so I know little about con artistry, and reading about what Nora’s mom put her through, forcing her to change her name, appearance, personality, and location so many times was somewhat horrifying but also interesting. I was pretty impressed with how Nora was able to mold herself into a demure church girl, a spitfire pre-teen, a rising tennis star so that her mother could woo and con various men. By the time the bank heist happens, Nora is trying to live a normal life: finally free from her mother, she lives with her sister Lee Ann and is trying to assert her identity as Nora. Of course, her identity being in flux isn’t good for her relationships, as we see unfold between Nora and both Iris and Wes.

Even if Nora’s backstory is heavy, the whole bank heist premise was very entertaining. The fact that a con artist’s daughter is being held hostage during somebody else’s crime because she was trying to do something surprisingly normal (making a deposit) is deliciously ironic, and the fact that she is stuck there with her current and former significant others was just too rich. We also see Nora working with Iris and Wes to develop a plan, and reading about them doing that with limited resources and skills was fun.
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Buckle up for the next YA thriller that is soon to come to a Netflix screen near you. That's right. It was recently announced that Millie Bobby Brown will be staring in the Netflix adaptation of The Girls I've Been.  Now let's get you excited. 

Nora O'Malley has been many girls in her life and has gone by many different names. As the daughter of a con-artist who targets bad men, she was raised to follow in her mother's footsteps as a con-artist. But when her mom fell in love with the worst mark of them all, Nora had one option, run. For five years after her escape, Nora has been trying to put together a semi-normal life with her best friend, Wes, and her girlfriend, Iris. However, one morning in the small California town that Nora has ended up in, she realizes she needs to dust off her skills. Why is that? Well Nora, Wes, and Iris all find themselves as the hostages in a bank robbery. But, the bank robbers have no idea who they're holding hostage. 

Okay talk about a page turner. If any of you have watched anything Millie Bobby Brown has done, having her in a role like this is going to be freaking gold. This book is INTENSE! Sharpe expertly wields a dual timeline of Nora's present and the past lives she has had to live, helping to fill the gaps of why she's ended up where she is in the present. Overall, THE GIRLS I'VE BEEN is a unique book. Sharpe uses all the usual elements of a thriller but brings in a nuances look at trauma, choosing your own family, and exploring what exactly makes you YOU. 

Thank you to G.P. Putnam's Sons and Penguin Teen for sending me the eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This book hits shelves JANUARY 26, 2021! Make sure to mark that date on your calendars and pick yourself up a copy. You won't regret it. And we all know we love to have read the book before we watch the show. 

-Assault and violence
-Domestic abuse
-Child abuse
-Teen pregnancy
-Discussuion of living with chronic pain
#PenguinTeenPartner #bookishcommunity #youngadultbooks #booksofinstagram #bookstagrammersunite #thegirlsivebeen #tesssharpe #yathriller #yabooks #youngadultbook #youngadultreads #booksofig
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I'm obsessed with the characters in The Girls I've Been. The three friends were all so different from each other yet had similarities that brought them together. I felt that the real life versions of these characters would definitely be friends in reality. Some books have friend groups where the chemistry is just not quite there but this was not one of those books. They all had different traumas and demons and they all dealt with them in different ways that were reminiscent of coping mechanisms I've seen in real life. Another thing I absolutely loved was the nonchalant representation for queer girls. It wasn't like this huge topic, but it was there and as a queer girl I loved it. One of the characters also has endometriosis which I personally do not have, but I do not see representation for it often and I would love to see an own voices review for this aspect.

The plot of this novel was a complete roller coaster. It was fun, fast and slightly scary at times, but I loved it. The main plot was exciting and I loved the way it was split into minutes as well as the lists at the top of the chapters detailing certain assets the characters could use to get out of their situation. I also really enjoyed the flashbacks. The chapters set in the past really built a strong background for Nora and explained how she became the badass she is.

I really enjoyed the author's writing in The Girls I've Been, but it wasn't extraordinary or spectacular enough in my opinion to give this book a full five stars. There was nothing wrong with the writing, but it didn't particularly stand out either.

Overall, I absolutely adored this book; it was almost perfect.
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You’re going to want to pick up a copy of THE GIRLS I’VE BEEN right away! This twisty, high-stakes thriller will keep you on the edge of your seat. I loved how the timeline alternated between the present bank robbery and Nora’s childhood with her con artist mother—which unfolded the story in an interesting way. Nora’s voice is strong and her dialogue entertaining (which is weird to say since there’s some pretty intense events occurring but it was) as she finds a way to get herself and her friends out of the hostage situation alive.

Read if you love:
☑️ Found families
☑️ Twisty thrillers
☑️ Fast-paced chapters
☑️ Complex characters
☑️ Multiple timelines
☑️ Queer romance
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This book is AMAZING. I love all of our main characters and their dynamic with each other. Nora is such an incredibly strong character who has gone through so much suffering at the hands of her mother and her marks, but she is learning to open up to the people in her life now that she can truly trust. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
This book deals with a lot of dark topics, so trigger warnings for domestic abuse, child abuse, and sexual assault. I thought the way these topics are handled was really well done, and the focus on Nora’s recovery was a powerful storyline. I enjoyed the multiple timelines which gave a sense of urgency in the present day as we’re following our main characters trying to get out of this hostage situation, while also learning about Nora’s backstory and how she uses these things that happened to her to ultimately become stronger.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
I tore through this book, and had such a hard time putting it down!  Again, there are some major trigger warnings in this book, but if they are things you can handle then I highly highly recommend picking this one up! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Thank you to @netgalley @penguinteen for the #gifted ARC!
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Nora grew up ensnared by her con-artist mother who enlisted her help in elaborate grifts. She was never just herself: her mother assigned her an identity depending on their mark. Five years after her escape, living under the radar with Lee, her older sister, she is beginning to heal from the trauma endured as her mother’s involuntary sidekick. 

While her first relationship, with Wes, ends under the weight of her secrets, they are able to reconstruct a friendship. She doesn’t tell him, however, when she starts seeing Iris. When Wes walks in on an intimate moment between them, he feels betrayed that Nora hasn’t confided in him. Still, the next day the trio meet at the bank to deposit money they raised for the animal shelter. The tension among them is not the worst of their problems. Moments after they arrive, two men hold up the bank.

Fiercely protective of Iris and Wes, Nora opens up her past memories for lessons to defeat the hostage takers. As she considers her prior identities—both what she learned from them and what they cost her—Nora gains confidence in who she is, even if it kills her.

I really haven’t read a book like this before; as much as I was horrified by Nora’s backstory, I was also fascinated. Nora emerges as a complicated, flawed, intelligent, courageous, and self-aware heroine. While she wants to be completely self-reliant, though, at times she realizes she must rely on others.

The structure, a combination of the current timeline, flashbacks, and transcripts of hostage negotiations and law enforcement conversations during the crisis, worked well for the narrative and headings helped establish Nora’s distinctive voice.

This is grittier and more violent than an average YA thriller, which I thought was more realistic for the topic. I couldn’t put this down and read it through to its satisfying conclusion in a single sitting. It combines the fast pace and excitement of a hostage drama with a deeper meditation on identity and survival.

TW: physical and sexual abuse, violence
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3.5/5 stars

I enjoyed this book, but not as much as I hoped to. I really loved how fast paced the main plot was, but some parts felt bogged down by the flashbacks. I wish we could’ve seen more of the characters in action in the present. 
I loved Iris and Nora’s relationship. That and learning about Nora’s past identities and how they shaped her into who she is now were probably my favorite parts.
Ultimately, this was a fun read. It was a unique story full of action and intrigue, but still examined very important, serious subject matter in an appropriate way. I wish I could’ve connected with Nora a bit more; I think that would’ve helped me feel more invested in the story. She had a nice arc, but we didn’t examine her character as deeply as I hoped we could have. Same with Wes and Iris. I loved the idea of the story, but the execution fell a bit flat for me.
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[TW: sexual assault, verbal and physical abuse, drug use, violence, hostage situations, death]
The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe has had me at the edge of my seat for the last two weeks. I’ve been trying to sneak in some extra reading here and there while I can because each chapter has another gripping twist and turn. Told non-linearly, the main story follows a bank robbery gone wrong. The main character, Nora, has been raised by a con-artist and tries to use the skills gleaned from her past lives to save herself and her friends while taken hostage in the bank. In a series of flashbacks, we learn more about Nora’s checkered past which is littered with violence, crime, and cons.
The story itself can be triggering for readers who identify with subjects above as it dives deep into trauma. Nora’s story is one of survival and finding love in the midst of your brokenness. It’s about choosing your family and choosing who you will be rather than letting circumstances define you.
I’m giving this ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 stars. It was a gripping YA page turner and I can’t wait to read more from Sharpe in the future.
Thank you @penguinteen for the free copy in exchange for an honest review. #penguinteenpartner
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Quick Stats
Overall: 4.5 stars maybe 5 idk
Characters: 5/5
Plot: 4.5/5
Writing: 4.5/5
Diversity: 4.5/5
Let me start by saying: Wow. I was totally absorbed into this book. I read the whole thing in one sitting. This is the first book by Tess Sharpe that I’ve read, but I have another of her books on my shelf that I cannot wait to read now.
This book is a bit hard to describe genre-wise. It’s like a light thriller, maybe? There are mystery aspects, but more in the “what’s gonna happen next” sense, not “who dunnit” vibes. We know from the start who the bad guys are. We don’t particularly know why they do it, but that’s not a big motivator for the story. It’s mostly: We have to get out, and learning Nora’s story and about “the girls she’s been”. It’s got a good mix of suspense without being stressful—I have anxiety, so thrillers tend to stress me out too much. TGIB kept me guessing and on the edge of my seat, but I never got too anxious.
Now let’s talk one of my favorite aspects of the book: the diversity! This book has LG(B)TQ+ rep as well as chronic illness rep! The book follows mainly Nora, the narrator, and her two best friends, Iris and Wes. Nora and Iris are dating (Nora is bi, Iris’s sexuality isn’t explicitly mentioned).
As for the chronic illness and disability rep—Iris has endometriosis and is on her period during the book. Her endo isn’t a big factor of the story, but it’s handled pretty much perfectly when it does come up. As someone who’s chronically ill and disabled, I am obsessed with finding good rep in YA. I’d heard good things about Tess Sharpe’s first book “Far From You” where the main character is disabled. I believe she has chronic pain. But I wasn’t expecting it from this book, so when Iris’s endo became a part of the story, I was thrilled. Because seriously, Tess Sharpe writes this rep beautifully.
“I should’ve told her she could stay home this morning, that I had it handled. But she made me promise not to tiptoe around her endometriosis and how sometimes her pain changes our plans, so I try not to fuss when she insists she’s okay.” (pg 54-55 uncorrected proof).
This is one of the first times Iris’s endometriosis is addressed, and it’s great. It shows that disabled people aren’t weak, that we don’t need to be treated like we’re fragile, and it shows Nora respecting that. As the book goes on, we get more of Iris handling her pain like a champ, suffering realistically, and even, in a few cases using it to her advantage. I cannot stress how much I adore Iris and Tess Sharpe for giving us the rep we desperately need.
Please, just read this book.
But on a serious note, I really loved this book, and I highly, highly recommend it!
I gotta go read every other book she’s written now.
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I couldn't believe this was a teen book! There's so much depth and so much going on. It was a wild ride. I cannot wait to see what the Netflix show is like.
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This was a wild ride and in a good way. A mystery, thriller, heist book in a contemporary setting with bi representation. 

Nora is the main character whose mother was a con artist - who used Nora to help con people. Now its noras turn.

I feel like i will come back to write more. I am still taking it all in and appreciating such a different book than I normally read. 

4 stars
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This book tells us about Nora and her heartbreaking past that leads her to do what she does. The story takes a unique approach in A life of a con artist. The author gives us a tough, courageous, loving, and protective character who will do everything and anything in her power to make sure of her safety and her loved ones. This is a hair-raising, enthralling, and unputdownable story that you should read!
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Before we start this review, I would like to thank Penguinteen for sending me this book through NetGalley for review!

This book was so amazing to read, and almost impossible to put down! It had so many twists and turns that I would just find myself hanging onto every word, waiting for another bomb to drop. This book also had multiple timelines, and I loved being able to see parts of the past as long as following along with the present! 

The characters were also amazing to read about as well! Nora as the main  character was amazing because she was just so sassy and strong in her ways. As we go through the past and present timelines, we slowly get to know who Nora really is. Growing up with a mother who is a con artist, she was finally able to get out and live a relatively normal life with her sister, but it all changed the day she went to the bank and a robbery took place. Maybe Nora has one more con up her sleeve. I also loved getting to know the side characters as well! This book was truly a favorite!

I highly highly recommend picking this book up! The way this book ended, I pray there is another one because I only want more after that ending! Make sure you mark your calendars for tomorrow, January 26, 2021, when this amazing book is released! 

Final Rating: 4/5 Stars ⭐️
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