Skip to content

Girls Like Me

June 9, 2018

Screen Shot 2018-06-09 at 7.54.54 PMI simply must say that I can’t remember ever reading a book that covered such a difficult subject as gender identity, suicide, teen pregnancy, child cruelty, and mental and emotional abuse…without closing the book and never picking it up again.  Such sensitive subject matter is difficult to understand if you’re on the outside looking in, and even more difficult to share if you are the one trying to navigate through the barriers thrown your way.  Unless you’ve known this world and/or lived it, you cannot speak its truth about it.


Nina Packebush, in this instance, is a speaker of truth for these youth, who are among our most vulnerable young adults.  Her gift as a nurturer transcends the narrative she wrote to serve most definitely as one of the guidepost texts needed by this population, so that they may know of their possibilities for success in moving forward.  As I read of sixteen-year-old Banjo’s mishandling by the psych doctors in the hospital, my rage was soothed by the masterful way in which Packebush could hold the reader’s attention and gently move readers through the contextualizations of the misrepresentation and mishandling of a sixteen-year-old who has experienced severe emotional trauma from her partner’s horrific suicide. A teenager who also shares the parentage of her unborn child with that same life partner, who is now tragically no more.

Screen Shot 2018-06-09 at 12.15.20 PM

Click the above album covers for “Girls Like Me” playlist on Spotify

Nina’s skill makes it possible for the reader to reach the critical point in her text where Banjo attends the appointment with her new gynecologist,  Dr. Alice  Dr. Alice a medical professional who identifies as lesbian, knows how to deal not only with gender identity issues but teen pregnancy because of her own personal experience as a teen mother.  From this point on, in the story, a safety net seems to emerge that was due to:  the emotional damage occurring within Banjo, due to her loss; the decisions that were to be made about Gracie, her unborn child; her relationship with her family; and her clouded view of what success in life and what healthy relationships looked like.

All of these cutting-edge social issues were approached with such seamlessness that readers are not only able to experience each anticipated milestone significant to Banjo’s developing resiliency, they are also able to see a mirrored reflection of their own complexities. As an observer, they find access to the windows that serve as a stage for determining what is right, correct, and healthy for their existence.”



Teen Pregnancy for teens, in general, is on the decline.  Awareness of pregnancy among queer teen populations, however, needs a more broaden platform for advocacy.


As the reader-observer, one can find themselves worried about poor Banjo’s rewiring and the efficacy she needs to build the self-esteem to move forward while not giving up on the unborn Gracie.  With concern to this aspect, I literally found myself as chief-cheerleader-in-charge to bolster support for Banjo’s single-parent family, headed by her mom to click in and not let Banjo allow Gracie to be adopted, to do something to let Banjo know she is loved and accepted for her sexual identity and not marginalize her, to kick into self-healing to save their family unit.

Image may contain: one or more people

“Girls Like Me” was a finalist at the 2018 Lambda Awards

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling

Author Nina Packebush (righthand side). in attendance at  2018 Lammy Awards

With this, of course, being a choice issue,  I can’t help being a soppy romantic at my core, which will find me always rooting for a “happy ever after, if there’s even a crack of daylight left at the end of the tunnel.  With so much emotional undertow, I was surprised at how Nina’s God-gift yet again pulled me through the text. I was even able to make it through the flashbacks of Gray’s suicide, which is literally the part that might be the most difficult. Gray was Banjo’s gender clear partner and the other parent to little Gracie. Without blowing the storyline by sharing their death scene, I do applaud the author in not brushing over this part of Banjo’s story, and incorporating it in flashback with Banjo and Lou, who revisited it for closure at the end of the storyline. My personal breaking point which is reflected of how seamless this story was woven, was when poor little Rags, Gray’s dog, saw the old apartment where Gray lived for the first time since their death.  I found a knot beginning to form in my throat, and realized at that point, how involved I had become in the story’s context.  So with tears softly rolling down my cheeks, for the first time in a long time, I read.  I read and let the tears fall as a release, for the tears had wanted to come at so many moments within this story, but had never surfaced.  They literary built up in a repository, unbeknownst to me, the reader, until the eternally happy Rags became center stage.

This was the epitome of a boundless unjudgemental love.  The same love that we all need and thirst for.  The same love that Banjo was healing from in the loss of Gray and the oncoming birth of Gracie.  The same love that was mending the tears in Banjo’s own family.  The same love that was becoming an emergent promise for Banjo and Lou.”


I can also add that most readers will be more than satisfied with the quality of how the author chose to end the story. It was not rushed and didn’t feel choppy. It simply flowed into a conclusion with logical order. The quality of writing is unquestionable. I have always been aware of gender choice, but feel honored to have had the chance to be introduced to the dilemma of teen pregnancy issues facing queer teens, as well as being made aware of the rising identity of gender clear youth in our society today.   I could not recommend a better manner in introducing these issues than through such a wonderful title from Bedazzled Ink publishers.  Thank you, Nina. Keep writing the stories we need to hear. The youth you write of are our children who are in our care.  Their stories should not be cast aside. Nearly a decade ago, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reminded us to never look at situations through one set of lens, for there is more than one story to be told.

“Girls Like Me” is one of the many voices that need space to be heard. It is inclusive of such diverse issues as race, gender binary identity, socioeconomic class, adolescent mental health treatment, family dynamics, teen pregnancy, teen suicide and self-medicating through cutting, and abandonment, to name a few.”

Several have referred to this title as groundbreaking in that it combines teen pregnancy issues with gender binary.  No other known YA novel has approached this complex dynamic. If there is another title out there, it is in a deep state of hiding.

Critical theorists refer to text such as this as “Enabling” because of the capacity it has to guide the troubled adolescents who are suffering from disconnect and disengagement, back from their dark holes and valleys.  Adults who serve as advocates for our underrepresented children should be made aware of text such as this and the healing power it possesses.

As a librarian and educator who has worked with youth in and outside of school environs for over 4 decades, and one who remembers my own adolescent years, I know that without supportive guideposts to provide answers, our young adults will continue to seek out guidance and answers to their dilemma elsewheres.  When they make these turns, a chasm in communications occur and many find themselves in deeper types of unforeseen problems from others that prey on their young innocence and vulnerabilities.”

For librarians and classroom teachers who are concerned with defending issues relating to controversial issues in this title, be assured that the author of this title has been very mindful of how the text presents itself  Its powerful message is absent of unacceptable explicit language and contains no illicit graphic scenes, making it an excellent choice for collection holdings in public, school, and classroom libraries for ages 13 and up.

Visit author Nina Packebush’s blog on Teen pregnancy”



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

47th Annual Celebration

JUNE 30 - JULY 3

Repeating Islands

News and commentary on Caribbean culture, literature, and the arts

In the Margins Book Awards

Book Award and Selection Committee

American Indians in Children's Literature (AICL)

Up and Coming Books for the Urban Middle Grade Reader!

American Indian Library Association

Up and Coming Books for the Urban Middle Grade Reader!

%d bloggers like this: