"Girls Like Us" by Gail Giles
TITLE: Girls Like Us
AUTHOR: Gail Giles
PUBLISHER: Candlewick Press
PUBLISHED DATE: May 27, 2014
This book stopped me in my tracks. I listened to this book in one sitting, it was so good. Quincey and Biddy are two reluctant friends who are paired together once they've graduated from their high school special education program. Heartbreaking and hopeful...I think this book has definitely earned spot on my required reading list.
Quincey and Biddy are two girls on the margins. Biddy, abandoned by her mother, is left in the care of an emotionally abusive grandmother who is never short on insults. Quincey lives in a foster home - left developmentally delayed and disfigured after being hit in the face with a brick by her mother's violent boyfriend. Once they've graduated from high school, a concerned teacher places the girls in a work/housing situation where they are to cook and clean for the mayor's wife in exchange of room and board. Quincey is highly judgmental of Biddy, and it's not long before Qunicey has a traumatizing experience that bonds the two young women as friends and survivors.
This story is told in the alternating voices of Quincey and Biddy. There is an urgency in the simplicity with which they tell these very brutal realities. I was immediately drawn in, and couldn't put the book down!
The style of this book is conversational...it's a southern drawl served with sweet tea and biscuits and gravy! Though I appreciated the southern twang - I can't overlook that for many people southern accents are stigmatized and people tend to equate southern accents with being less intelligent. I know that this is absolutely false - but a part of me is unsure if the narrator was using assumptions already placed on southern accents as a cheap character building technique. As much as I liked the southern accent - I was also disturbed by it.
It's every small town where everyone knows everyone and is in everyone's business. I don't think the setting was as integral to the story. It could literally have been anywhere. The focus here was clearly on Quincey and Biddy, and not so much on where they were. They were poor and the places and circumstances they found themselves in reflected that.
I could see it and feel it. Something felt very real and authentic about this story to me, even though I was disturbed at the use of southern accents... I cried for the girls - I rooted for the girls. Now...the only part that felt inaccurate to me was towards the end when Quincey confronts the mayor's wife about Biddy's secret. I won't reveal - because you have to read the book to see for your self - but I wasn't buying it!
I appreciated that this book included characters that had varied abilities. Quincey came off as having less challenges than Biddy, but she still had her limitations, and ultimately both girls were victims of abuse. The author tries to write these young women with a lot of spirit, and I think she's trying not to make the reader feel sorry for them, but I think with as dismal a story-line as they have this in unavoidable. Both girls come from severely dysfunctional backgrounds. Both are stigmatized because they are in special education programs. Both endure sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. Though these two women eventually empower one another through friendship, it is definitely against all the odds. Quincey is biracial. It's mentioned in passing, and almost nothing else is said about that. Now...this may not be a big deal to a person is not a POC, but for a biracial person - this may mean more to them, and be an area of life that they explore more than a slight mention. If you're looking for a happy story where the two main characters just happen to have disabilities....this isn't the book. This book is sad, and these characters will pull your guts out.
Characters with disabilities that enjoy the full range of the human experience - they can be judgmental, critical, have rich friendships, work, find fulfillment, and pick up on all the microaggressions of life. Abuse - be it sexual, emotional, physical - and how abuse weighs on the conscience. The negative ways people treat young women who have developmental delays - talking condescendingly, insulting, and underestimating these women - and how this behavior nurtures low self esteem. This book also seeks to focus on what these young women can do, though the people around them seem unwilling to acknowledge they things they can do. Quincey is a delicious cook. Biddy loves to clean.
I don't hate or love the cover. Quincey is biracial, and nothing in this cover reflects that. The book description intrigued me way more than the cover.
I felt the plot was straight forward. I didn't feel lost at any time, or felt it difficult to follow the pacing or structure of the story. It was a fairly quick read.
Audience: Young Adults and up
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