Rebel Girls by Elizabeth Keenan
Listen, Goodreads says it’s 384 but the ARC was 418, so believe what you will
YA > Contemporary; Historical Fiction; Feminism
It’s 1992, and there’s a rumor spreading in Baton Rouge…
When it comes to being social, Athena Graves is far more comfortable creating a mixtape playlist than she is talking to cute boys—or anyone, for that matter. Plus her staunchly feminist views and love of punk rock aren’t exactly mainstream at St. Ann’s, her conservative Catholic high school.
Then a malicious rumor starts spreading through the halls…a rumor that her popular, pretty, pro-life sister had an abortion over the summer. A rumor that has the power to not only hurt Helen, but possibly see her expelled.
Despite their wildly contrasting views, Athena, Helen and their friends must find a way to convince the student body and the administration that it doesn’t matter what Helen did or didn’t do…even if their riot grrrl protests result in the expulsion of their entire rebel girl gang.
Any Trigger Warnings?
I’m so excited that I finally have time to read this oh my GOD.
Thoughts While Reading
“. . . yes”
“Hell yea, Melissa”
“Melissa is a fucking legend”
“Is this,,,, Luther?”
“I hated when teachers did this!!”
“He most likely was but go off”
“Sean, you seemed cool but now you’re kind of being a dick”
“Shut up, lady”
“Oh fuck off, man”
“Side note: I don’t trust Kyle”
“Fuck yeah, Sara”
“Trip is a pure boy”
“Trip is a pure boy” (This is not a typo. I thought this two separate times and I’m kind of dying over it)
“I’m shaking in my boots”
Hell yeah women!!!!
Favorite Quote(s) from the Novel
“Support girls around you. Don’t be jealous of other girls. Avoid competition with them. Being loud and crying in public were valid ways of being a girl. Being a girl didn’t mean being weak or bad. Claiming your sexuality, no matter what that meant to you, was a good thing. And the revolution was open to anyone.”— Athena Graves, page 19
Athena Graves (aka, our main main character and a shy feminist)
When I say shy feminist, I mean that she is shy and a feminist, not shy about being a feminist.
She’s not, with the only exception being around her Catholic teachers (which is understandable).
Athena is such a pure and important character. Throughout the novel, she struggles with feeling like a “real feminist” and, in general, she struggles with speaking her mind. Both of those things are struggles that a lot of people have and I think having that growth shown through Athena was very influential and valid!!!
By the end of the book, Athena is a lot more comfortable with who she is as a person and she is much quicker to speak her thoughts to anyone and everyone and watching that growth progress made my heart very happy!
But I think the main lesson that can be learned from Athena is that even if you don’t go to the rallies or volunteer at an abortion clinic, that doesn’t make you less of a feminist! As long as you support and live by those concepts and thoughts, you’re a feminist.
Hell yeah, equality.
Melissa (aka, our feminist extraordinaire)
Truly a legend.
Melissa is like the Kathleen Hanna of this story, almost. She, along with Athena, pioneer the protest on Helen’s behalf. She also has so problem with sharing her opinions and sharing what she does outside of school (like volunteering at abortion clinics and dating as many guys as she wants because it doesn’t matter DON’T SLUTSHAME).
Melissa’s the outspoken feminist who won’t take your shit and the audience has decided to stan.
Helen Graves (aka, the pro-life little sister who may/may not have had an abortion) (you don’t know yet and this is a spoiler free society) (unless I say otherwise)
Listen, I KNOW what you all are thinking and — don’t worry — I will answer your question right now.
I have no idea what Helen’s title has become, but we’re just going to roll with it.
I have conflicted feelings about Helen. I think her character was constructed well and all of that, but her opinions on women just annoyed me and angered me.
But by the end, after going through the course of the rumor and the protest, she’s a lot more open and I think that’s also important to touch on because that’s just how it works sometimes. Sometimes you won’t change someone’s mind and even if you do, the process of doing that can take an incredibly long time, but it’s still worth it, and it’s still possible.
Sara — #1 of Helen’s friends; is a pure bean; her speaking her true opinions/changing her opinions at the end made me LOSE IT I was so proud!!!
Jennifer — #2 of Helen’s friends; she’s very loyal and that’s kind of all I know about her
Sean — Eh 🤷🏻♀️
Jamie Taylor — an incredible and strong human being whom I would lay my life on the line for
Leah — I wish she would shut up
Leah’s Sidekick — I don’t remember her name off the top of my head and she’s awful so I’m not going to look it up 🤪
Kyle — I’m sorry, who?
I Wish it Was Just About the Rumor, Bros
Alright, listen. I didn’t really give a shit about the romance.
I fully believe that the same resolution and the same overall message could’ve been portrayed by Athena simply . . . not dating anyone.
I understand why this portion of the plot was included but I just . . . I don’t think it necessarily gave anything to the story besides Athena’s outlook on dating, which could have been achieved in much simpler ways, ways that would have left more to the rumor and mini revolution . . .
With that Being Said, the Feminist Take? Showstopping
. . . because that was, hands down, my favorite thing about this series!
I’m taking two different gender studies classes this semester and they’re making me really analyze my relationship with feminism and how my identity and expression function while also being a feminist and basically, they’re just feeding my SOUL!
So for me to then read a book that takes all of these things I’m learning about in class and put them in a YA contemporary lens was so . . . amazing and wonderful to experience.
I really connected with Athena as a character and watching her journey while also being able to spot the similarities with mine was a very validating experience.
I also think that this novel provides an interesting “instructional manual” on feminism because it does show different identities within feminism and the process of education and people changing their views, or simply being able to give their views a term.
It was just wholesome and nice, okay??? (Wholesome is an odd term to use right now but that’s fine, I’m too overwhelmed with Uni to think of anything else 🤪🤪)
Stuff I Want to Scream About?/Anything Else?
- This book has me listening to Riot Grrrl bands again and I am: thriving — why did I ever stop???
Would/Will I Continue the Series?
Rebel Girls is a stand-alone novel and I’m perfectly happy with that!
Who Should Read This Novel
What was your high school experience like?
- I —
- It was an experience.
- (This answer is so vague and I know that but this is fully the only way to describe it without getting too personal, because, you know, the whole fiercely private thing)