Girls, Stand Together! | Review: Rebel Girls by Elizabeth Keenan

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The year is 1992. The setting is a conservative, Catholic school. These Rebel Girls stand together.


It’s 1992, and there’s a rumor spreading in Baton Rouge…

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.

Rebel Girls by Elizabeth Keenan 
Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5)  

As always, a copy of this book was provided by the publisher or author in exchange for my honest review. This does not effect my opinion in any way.

As one of my most anticipated reads of 2019, Rebel Girls was at the tip top of my TBR for the end of summer. Look at that cover! Check out that synopsis! I mean, surely, you can see why it was a priority read for me.

Sign me up for girls supporting girls, which is one of the biggest messages in Rebel Girls--and double sign me up for a nostalgic setting! If you're looking for something that holds onto a feminist message and taps into our love of the 1990s, and exploration of sisterly bonds, then this book is for you!

Before I get started, I do want to get into some of the trigger warnings for Rebel Girls: there's a lot of ground to cover with this book and it includes mentions of teenage pregnancy, abortions, racism and more.

That being said, there are a lot of heavy discussions about ideals re: conservative vs. liberal (conservative setting, Catholic school; a lot of liberal characters, a lot of ignorance in others) so there is a specific level of tension to Rebel Girls.

While it wasn't my favourite read of the year, it was certainly an enjoyable; feminist throwback of a novel. I couldn't put it down and ate it up within a day because it was truly one of those impossible to put down stories. Something about Rebel Girls felt wholly empowering and optimistic. It never treats its audience in a way that feels like an after school special and I really appreciate that.

As I read Rebel Girls I found myself thinking of how I wished there had been more books like it when I was a teenager. There's this frankness to it that I was really keen on. It felt blunt and too the point, while still having that undeniable shakiness to it that comes with any of us as we come of age.

I thought that the central story arches and themes found in Rebel Girls REALLY hit home on some serious issues including gossip that can damage reputations (and the girls who spread it vs. the girls who fight it and stick together despite differing opinions) and the topic of abortion. At its core, Rebel Girls has a fairly simple message--support other girls instead of lying or acting maliciously towards them.

Further, it explores the bond between family and friends and is just thoroughly enjoyable in doing so. There is some romance sprinkled in, but for the most part Rebel Girls is about creating and holding onto specific bonds and relationships. And speaking up.

Ultimately, I think that Rebel Girls is a very important novel that should be praised for the manner in which it explores its plotlines. It raises some serious and thought-provoking moments within the era it is set. Truly, I thought that the way in which Rebel Girls explored topics was carefully plotted, not overly done and pretty straight on the nose in terms of honesty.

Elizabeth Keenan captures the voices of her characters gloriously. You should absolutely add Rebel Girls to your TBR this autumn.

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