Reviews

The Girls I've Been, by Tess Sharpe

camille_roskvist's review against another edition

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challenging dark emotional reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? N/A
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.75

gmommers's review against another edition

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4.0

Nora O’Malley doesn’t know who she truly is. Growing up as the daughter of a con artist, she has been a lot of different girls, molding herself into whoever her mother needed her to be for each specific target. But when her mom ended up falling in love with the terrible man they were meant to be conning, Nora made her escape.

For the past five years, she’s been playing the part at a normal life. But that all goes to shit when her ex-boyfriend turned best friend, Wes, her new girlfriend, Iris, and herself become hostages in a bank robbery. Her past might be the only thing that can save them...or the very thing to get them all killed. And it doesn’t help that she’s been lying to Wes about Iris while lying to Iris about who she really is.

Randomly decided to read this one night and I was not disappointed by the decision. The nonstop tension and action made sure I never put this book down. The story jumps between the bank heist in the present and the different girls Nora has been throughout her past. We get to see the past Nora survived as well as how she’s still working on breaking down the barriers she has put up.

The relationships between the characters are complex and well done. Nora and Wes are exes but remain close friends. All three of them are friends, but Nora and Iris had been keeping their relationship a secret from Wes. And Wes knows the truth about Nora’s past, but Iris doesn’t. This is a lot of layers to unpack, and they get to do it in the middle of a bank heist. Talk about your bad timing. Despite all of this, their “former boyfriend, current girlfriend, yet three amigos” relationship worked seamlessly.

Each chapter starts with a snippet of the time and its relation to when the bank heist started as well as the plan the gang is currently working on and the items they have to work with. I thought this was a nice touch because it gave you quick information that could’ve otherwise bogged down the narrative. And although escaping the bank robbers unharmed is the main storyline, there’s the underlying mystery of how Nora ended up escaping her con artist mother and dangerous new stepfather also driving the plot, and the way the two collide is quite explosive.

Last, but not least, please enjoy two of my new favorite quotes.
It was the perfect meet-cute, except when you’re a girl who likes other girls, there’s this little additional dance, because what if she doesn’t? So you’re not looking for red flags like a girl does with a guy – you’re looking for rainbow ones.

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

karina_dreamsinwords's review against another edition

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5.0

Easily one of the best YA thrillers I’ve ever read! Before reading, there are a LOT of content warnings, so please be aware.

smellatree's review against another edition

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mysterious tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.0

think_kimberly's review against another edition

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dark emotional tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.5


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femke_'s review against another edition

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adventurous emotional funny mysterious fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.5

masalacat's review against another edition

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adventurous emotional tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.5


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marshy04's review against another edition

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adventurous dark funny tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? N/A
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.0

inking_thinking's review against another edition

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4.0

⭐️ 4 Stars ⭐️

Nora O’ Malley has been lots of different girls. Her mother is a con artist who targets criminal men, taking Nora for the ride. But on one of her mother’s con, she falls for the mark. Nora decides to pull the biggest con, which is an escape from that life. Ever since then, Nora has been playing a normal life. But she’ll need to dust off her skills after three problems start to arise.

- Her ex walked in on Nora and her girlfriend, Iris. They are all friends, but Wes didn’t know
- The day after Wes finds them kissing, they have to go to deposit money they raised at a fundraiser
- As soon as they enter the bank, two robbers start robbing it

“There is no normal. There is just a bunch of people pretending there is. There’s just different levels of pain. Different stages of safe. The biggest con of all is that there’s a normal.”

The story jumps back and forth between the last four years of Nora’s life. During the chapters that feature the present, the book tells us how much time has passed since being held captive, what the working plan was and what items they had to help them. I thought this was a nice detail to add because it tells you quick information that will be helpful in the future and reminds you what is going on. This story focuses on one theme: Survival. It’s a story about how you may go through some of the worst moments, and how in the end, that will make you stronger. It also throws in a surprise theme of how you should keep those you care about close. Not only does the author do a great job of keeping you on the edge of your seat, she throws in Nora’s complex relationships showing how they are affected by the present but also the past.

“What didn’t kill me didn’t make me stronger; what didn’t kill me made me into a victim. But I made me stronger. I made me into a survivor.”

Often, when I’m reading YA books there tends to be some pacing issues. But let me tell you, I thought the pacing was brilliant. I never felt bored while reading it and wanted to know what will happen next. The author creates this fast-paced story by having short chapters and fast dialogue scenes. A smart move for the author to do because it grabs your attention. The author also does a great job of balancing dark and heavy scenes with humor and thrilling parts. By balancing out the story with humorous and thrilling elements it helps to not make the story dark and depressing.

Nora O’Malley is different from any character I’ve read. She is someone you don’t want to mess with but throughout the book, you will come to love her character. Nora has been through some rough times, but we see her persevere and keep going. She has been through so much pain and hurt, but we see her evolve to eventually breaking past her barriers. Wes and Iris are complex and incredible side characters. Both of them have their own stories that we get to see in the book as well. Many times in YA books, we don’t get to see the side characters’ backgrounds but in this book, we get to know all about them. The only criticism I have about these two characters is that I wished we got to see more of them in the present. We got so much information about them in the past, but not much in the present.

"I am someone who survives."

The relationships between the characters were incredibly complex, with many layers to untangle. Nora and Wes are exes, but they are still friends. They still care about each other so much even though some events happen that rattle their relationship. I loved seeing that they were still friends, and I feel like this doesn’t happen a lot in YA books. I would love to see this in more YA books because this happens in real life. I was disappointed that we did not get to see Iris and Nora’s relationship more. We get so much of Wes and Nora’s, so it made me wanting more from the other one. I wish that their relationship was expanded upon more and we got more scenes between them.

The ending was a little underwhelming. I expected more out of it, and to me, it felt open-ended. I would have liked to find out what happened rather than not knowing. I expected it to have more of a solid ending to mark the end of Nora’s story. But her story still has more to it.

TW: Domestic Violence, Sexual Assaults, Child Molestation, Gun Violence, and Lots of Crime

Content warnings from the author: bit.ly/2NcdmLP

Check out my review on my blog: https://inkingandthinking.wordpress.com/2021/04/24/the-girls-ive-been-review/

danerysss's review against another edition

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3.0

ayyoo imagine if you got stuck in a bank robbery with your girlfriend and ex after your ex caught you and your girlfriend making out and now there’s guns being pointed at you and shit but you happen to be an actual con artist so there’s that.

anyways this was a whole lot of YA fun.


the plot:

there isn’t a whole lot of plot in the sense that everything that happens just unfolds, it moves really fast and there’s not a lot of planning or speculation as to what is actually going on. but maybe i just read this too fast so i didn’t understand much.

the whole plot is basically nora punching people and trying to escape the bank robbery, and then it also goes back in time to tell you about all of nora’s past lives and this girl actually has a lot of trauma.

i appreciated how this book dealt with traumatic things happening to characters while they were young, i feel like often times characters will be in the middle of like 5 explosions and fight 10 people and kill 3 people and almost get killed like 57638 times, and then they will have absolutely no trauma or anything afterwards. like ummmmm how does that work? in this book, however, the traumatic events aren’t glossed over and ignored, and at one point the mc even said she wasn’t okay because of everything that happened because it had such a big effect on her. we need more of this type of thing in YA. realistic contemporary books can’t be the only ones that address trauma, come on.

also the mc goes to therapy!!!! we stan.

the more interesting part of the story is honestly the past events and how that unfolded, the story in the present time was too fast-moving and didn’t make a whole lot of sense and wasn’t very interesting to read about. it also didn’t give as much insight into the characters as the past did. i highly appreciate the whole flashback thing throughout the story because without that we would’ve had nothing. we would’ve gotten cardboard cutouts of characters with a shitty plot.


characters:

nora: this girl had such issues with self-identity but instead of taking away from her character like what happens in other books, it added to her character. we got a sense of all the different people she’d had to pretend to be throughout her life and how it made her lose herself along the way. nora was interesting and honest and smart and brave, literally the exact type of main character you need in a book about a bank robbery. and also she gave off such chaotic bisexual energy i love it.

iris: ok ok ok this girl was literally the most perfect side character ever. literally. the. most. perfect. with her dresses and lighter and arson investigator tendencies i just loved her so much, she was so unapologetically her and she was absolutely great. iconic queen.

wes: i never really got a true sense of what wes was like as a character but he seemed like a good person and i really liked his relationship with nora. they went from friends to dating to discovering nora’s secret identity and breaking up to being friends again and honestly bestie goals.

lee: lee. can. do. whatever. she. wants. with. me. what a hot independent bad bitch i’m in love honestly idk whether i want to be her or be with her fldjdkfkfjfk LITERALLY THE BEST CHARACTER


the writing:

the writing was mediocre. i dont have much to say about it, it was good at some points and cringey at others. but of course it was. this is YA so i didn’t expect anything different which honestly makes me sad because who says YA books can’t have good writing is that like an unspoken rule? could we get some YA books that are actually well-written please? i would actually want to read YA books and i would be able to give them all higher ratings BUT I CANT because the writing SUCKS and IT MAKES ME SO MAD. like for this book, it would definitely get a higher rating from me if it was written better and honestly the writing is one of the only complaints i have and i feel like i have this exact same complaint for every single YA book i read. just because it’s meant for younger readers, it doesn’t have to sound like it was written by a child. thank you for coming to my ted talk.


the ending:

the ending could not have been more cheesy if it tried and it dragged on so long to the point where it was so past necessary i could’ve just skipped it completely and still say that i read the whole book. and that last paragraph at the end literally made me want to gag i can’t deal with mediocre writing throughout the whole book and then suddenly at the end it’s pretending like it’s qUotAbLe and sounds good but it just comes across as unbearably cheesy and cliché. please only use that type of shit for the ending if you make your whole book have good writing, that’s the only way i’ll tolerate it.


3.5 stars

rep:

✔︎ bi mc
✔︎ sapphic relationship
✔︎ character with endometriosis

tw for child abuse, domestic abuse, sexual assault (of a minor), threats of rape, violence, etc.