The Girls I've Been by Tess Sharpe
Guys, I know it’s only January, but I’m pretty sure this will be one of my favorites for the year. It ticks ALL the boxes for me.
Of all the times she’s cursed the girls she’s been in her past, Nora (not her real name) is happy to have been them this ONE time. This particular time happens to be in the middle of a bank robbery with her girlfriend, Iris, and best friend, Wes. It was supposed to be a quick errand in their tiny California town. Now, on top of the awkwardness between Wes and her and Iris, she’s got to deal with this. Most people would just shut down, cry in a corner, and do whatever the bank robber asks of them but not Nora. She’s built to fight. She got that trait from her mom, a grifter and con artist who preyed on wealthy men with questionable morals and used her daughter in every scheme until Nora fought back and escaped. Her older sister Lee (not her real name) got Nora out five years ago, and she’s been attempting an everyday life ever since. But old habits die hard.
Sharpe weaves dual timelines together with the past and the present, giving the reader a complete package of how Nora acquired her unique skills with the girl she is now. Snippets of the girls-the perfect daughters-her mom forced her to be, and the schemes that went along with it paint a picture of just how manipulative her mom is and what lengths she was willing to use her daughter. Basically, she’s a horrible human. But the real mystery is why the bank robber is both happy AND slightly terrified when she pretends to be a name from her past- Ashley Keane. A name that’s been splashed around the news and in prisons; one that she hasn’t used in five years.
At a glance, this is a tense thriller of a story. But Nora’s past makes this a survival story. Her relationship with Lee makes it a tale of two sisters. And, the final scene with her mom shows her that Nora is the perfect daughter no more. Not to be forgotten, Iris and Wes contribute to this idea of survival, and although we don’t get the whole picture for either (more Wes than Iris), it’s clear that all three have much more in common than they realize. Her found family of Iris, Wes, and Lee is what she needs, and I adored all of them. They were no slouches in this time of crisis- I mean, who doesn’t love a girlfriend who can make a bomb? And I’m not talking about Nora ;). Some tough subjects come up within the past of the story but are handled beautifully. Short chapters and my favorite kind of banter will make this an easy recommendation to anyone. To top it off, there is a Netflix adaptation in the works with Millie Bobby Brown as Nora!!
I received an advanced reader’s copy from Edelweiss.