cover image The Girls I’ve Been

The Girls I’ve Been

Tess Sharpe. Putnam, $18.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-5933-5380-6

Ex-grifter Nora O’Malley, who’s 18 and bisexual, finds herself in an uncomfortable situation after her ex-boyfriend Wes walks in on her kissing their mutual friend and her girlfriend, Iris. Before the three can work things out, they’re taken hostage during a bank robbery in their small California town—and there’s no guarantee they’ll make it out alive. In order to save Wes and Iris, Nora must confront and make use of a past she’s tried to leave behind. The first-person narrative gracefully shifts between Nora’s childhood as her con artist mother’s apprentice and the present, a structure that reinforces how inextricably the two are intertwined. Nora is a survivor of domestic, psychological, and sexual abuse, and was forced by her mother to adopt multiple identities, leaving her relationship with herself unsteady, and Sharpe (Barbed Wire Heart) focuses as much on her trauma—and the systems of power that enable and excuse abuse—as on mystery and heart-pounding action. Pacing is off in the book’s final act, somewhat undermining an otherwise affecting conclusion, but the small, complex cast of characters and emotional core make this a poignant thriller. Ages 14–up. [em]Agent: Jim McCarthy, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (Jan.) [/em]