‘The Nowhere Girls’ – Amy Reed

At a time when we can easily see some of the awful comments attributed to one of the most powerful men in the United States revealing his derogatory attitude to women and when the #MeToo campaign is sharing more and more disturbing stories of how women are treated, there’s no doubt in my mind that this is one of those books that everyone should be encouraged to engage with.

The Nowhere Girls. A group of young women, from all spheres of life, who come together to try to combat the toxic culture in their hometown.

New girl Grace is unsure how to fit in. As the only child of devout Christians their life has been in upheaval as their old church community was resistant to having Grace’s mum as a pastor. She wants to stand for something, but is so unsure of herself at the start of the novel. Grace finds herself making a rather unusual choice of friends at her new school, and when she learns that the girl who used to live in her home was forced to leave school after accusing three star footballers of rape she is determined to make a stand.

Along with Grace we are told the story from the points of view of Rosina and Erin. Each have their own concerns that impact on their lives, but their voices were pretty authentic. I was particularly fond of Erin who was a character you couldn’t help but root for.

As the Nowhere Girls movement gathers force we see the impact it has on some of the key players in perpetuating this slut-shaming culture. Small steps initially, but there is a hint of light at the end of the tunnel.

There’s no doubt in my mind that this relatively happy ending would not happen in real-life. I was repulsed by some of the characters (intentionally I think) and really irritated by the complacent and, at times, combative attitudes of those who have the power to tackle such institutional sexism.

With explicit scenes featuring sexual violence this will not be an easy read, but it’s a sadly necessary one. My biggest gripe with this was the relentlessly happy ending that, for me, belies the battle that many in such a situation will face. However, that doesn’t detract from the need for novels such as this to encourage young men and women to consider how they can truly make a difference.