Rebel Girls has wonderful timing in an age where women have to fight for their right to choose.
Set in the halls of a conservative Catholic high school, the story of Rebel Girls follows Athena Graves and her sister, Helen, as they navigate rumors of an abortion Helen may or may not have had. Although Helen is vehemently against abortion, Athena is as pro-choice as they come. No matter what their views, the censorship of their school makes fighting rumors next to impossible. Despite the threat of expulsion breathing down their necks, the girls team up to prove that it doesn’t matter what Helen—or any student—did or didn’t do with their own bodies.
While I was wary about how the topic of abortion might be broached in a young adult book meant for what seemed like audiences on the lower end of the age range, Rebel Girls exceeded my expectations tenfold. The issue was dealt with in a mature manner by all of the girls, even anti-choice Helen. The incorporation of Riot Grrrl theology gave the conflict realistic girl power and backing, providing countless strong young women for readers to look up to. The struggle between this empowerment and the censorship of the setting made the stakes high despite the fact that the actual fight was only in the halls of one high school.
The only place where girl power failed to overcome was in the dealings with Athena’s love interests. The leading man, Kyle, was just not swoon-worthy, even when readers are supposed to like him. From the start, it was clear that he wasn’t all Athena thought, but she wasn’t able to see that as quickly despite her Riot Grrrl background. While the surprising secondary love interest is far more likable, the attraction felt a bit rushed with the abrupt ending of the book.
Overall, Rebel Girls is a story about sisterhood and the right to choose, two powerful themes for today’s world. If every girl read Rebel Girls, I have a feeling the war against those controlling women’s bodies would be one step closer to being won.
***I was provided with a free ARC of Rebel Girls at Bookcon 2019***