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[Review] Girls Like Us by Gail Giles

June 3, 2014


Candlewick.  223pp.  May 27, 2014. 9780763662677.  Grades 7 and Up.  Just finished reading this and I’m honestly choking back the tears.  I can’t believe how skilled the author’s handling of the main 3 characters’ dignities with such poignancy.  There’s Biddy whose mother abandoned her to a grandmother that was filled with nothing but hate and resentment for a baby that survived an oxygen deprived birth and grew up to survive 2 separate rapes.  There’s Quincy who grew up in one foster home after another after surviving a traumatic head injury from a brick that was caused by her mother’s boyfriend when she was six.  There’s Ms. Elizabeth, the senior citizen that took both girls under her wings and helped them to understand, at last, what family really means. That both girls have survived such a traumatic life of sexual,emotional, and mental cruelty and still look to a future is extraordinary for anyone, let alone someone with disabilities.  Written in short chapters from each of the 2 main characters’ points of view…some one page long…some two no more than 3…this is definitely from my perspective a book that latches onto the reader and cradles you to the very end.  I could not stop reading and because of the short chapter format, it’s a very very quick read.  Another reviewer suggested this book for older readers due to a rape scene, but the rape scene is not explicit in any way…and yes, the main characters have graduated from high school and are 18 years old, but their expression and thought patterns are younger due to their disabilities.   After all, middle schoolers are reading John Green (I luv J. Green, by the way).  If they can handle a John Green book, I see no reason why a younger advance reader can not handle this coming of age realistic fiction!

The review is can also be read on Goodreads, along with 9 more.  Just click on the icon for the book in the Goodreads Sidebar on your right.  – Sabrina C.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gail Giles is the author of seven YA books.  This is her 8th YA novel.  She is a former high school teacher and has a broad experiential background in dealing with the issues of SPED in a K12 setting.  Gail has one son and two grandsons.  She grew up in Texas and is living happily with her husband and their 3 dogs and 3 cats.  For more info on Gail, go to her website:

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Melissa permalink
    October 30, 2018 12:03 pm

    As a parent of a special education child, I found this book to be highly offensive. When the word retard is used several times within the first chapter, it is definitely not a book that should be allowed to be read in our schools. If Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are unacceptable because of the derogatory n word then what makes it okay for people to use the r-word when talking about children with disabilities?

    • March 23, 2019 3:57 am

      Hey Melissa,

      I so apologize for not responding to you sooner. I just saw your comment. I an unfortunately not an advocate for banning Tom Sawyer OR Huckleberry Finn which were written by Clemons to evoke dialogue, derogatory words and all. These titles like so many are not presented nor taught correctly. They should be presented to the reader from the perspective of critical literacy, which is to enable students to make the judgement calls you are making, based on the outcome of the protagonists in the book and the purpose of the author. Just as Clemons wrote to elicit dialogue to the equity of all people (i.e., Huck with his frailties, looked to a slave in the way of a parent – he was not raised with any social acceptable graces, but was a product of the 1840s Ozark poverty and ignorance – Tom was a spoiled little rich kid who treated black people that were slaves in his household with stereotypical demeaning behavior, and was so bored in his world of privilege that he formed the “gang of brothers” just to steal…there is so much symbolism in Clemons’ books…that in today’s world, they would have to be chunked if being taught in a class setting).

      I am a little different in my literary views, for I am a strong advocate for critical literacy. I’m wondering how many people would advocate for “The Scarlet Letter” to be considered unapproved due to the fact that Hester Prynne is a baby’s mama. She got pregnant by a pastor in her community, didn’t snitch on him or her legal husband who showed up later, had the baby in jail and after getting out raised the baby as a single mom. The Scarlet Letter is required reading in hundreds of school districts and like Clemons’ greatest works, Hawthorne’s works of marginalization should also be read from a critical perspective.

      As for “Girls Like Us” the negative references are not written to advocate the use of these words, but to present the derogatory manner in which youth challenged with a variety of disabilities, go through. This book is of interest to older middle school students in 8th grade who range from ages 13 to 15. It is of interest to youth who experience daily bullying which is viciously delivered but many times fall through the cracks of detection because those being preyed upon stay silent and others that know stay silent and allow it to continue. It does not advocate using these words with youth who are disabled or using the title to show examples of how to mistreat other human beings. It also doesn’t state that molestation by your supervisor at work is acceptable. There is absolutely nothing graphic in this book pertaining to the sexual molestations, and it’s advocacy for girls to speak up in these situations, not to stay quiet. One protagonist was literally hit in the head by a brick from physical abuse of her mother’s boyfriend. This caused her such extensive neurological damage that she needed special staffing in order to learn. I am appalled you could not show concern for that? There is also support for those that have never known the love of family and that family comes in all shapes and sizes that has nothing to do with common DNA. Although both characters were older teens, their disabilities kept them at the problem solving stage of a younger teen, which is why I recommend this for middle school.

      Author Gail Giles worked as a SPED teacher for 20 years and writes from her lived experiences. Her intent was not to be vulgar in any way nor does it gloss over the real life issues experienced particularly by the female protagonists who have aged out of K12 school services and must now go out into the world on their own. There are girls who are not disabled but suffer from low self-esteem and who also have been subjected to some of the situations in this story: a search for family, name calling and bullying in school, a need to belong, a dysfunctional family, physical/mental/emotional/sexual abuse at both home and school, taking on independence, and the need to move forward past all the negative. This book lends voice to such issues and advocates for friendship, sisterhood, family, standing up for yourself, and adopting life skills that would guide you not to fall into the pitfalls that happened as when one of the protagonists got a job at the grocery store. By serving as a guidepost on what to do to pull out of the pitfalls that the characters fell through, it helps youth with healthy growth and development. It is not for all youth, but it’s definitely for some, and it deserves a place on the shelf of school and public libraries.

  2. March 24, 2019 9:27 pm

    Reblogged this on Brichi's Lit Spot and commented:

    I just recently responded to a comment on this review, which stated that the writer of the comment was highly offended. I can’t imagine how this book which highly advocates for #metoo, before the hashtag was generated and gives such a powerful platform for the voiceless to be heard, would be offensive. Although the commentor has explained how this comes about because she is the mother of a special needs child, and the use of the word “retarded” is referenced in the text, I feel when writing for young adults, you have to show the issues authentically, not in a bleached out super hyper anti-bactarialized manner of expression. The impact would be missed. As I said in the reply to this comment, the issues in this book are very gritty but they were not presented to the reader in graphic contextualized depictions. It’s horrifying enough that people on earth exist that do such abusive things to youth. Please read my recent response to the comment for Girls Like Us by Gail Giles.

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