**Disclaimer: I received a free advanced reader copy of Rebel Girls by Elizabeth Keenan from Harlequin Teen through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to them for the opportunity!
Rebel Girls by Elizabeth Keenan is a contemporary historical fiction novel set in the early 90s in Louisiana. It comes out on September 10th, 2019. I gave it four stars on GoodReads, but it’s more of a 4.5 star read.
Here’s the summary from GoodReads:
In 1992 Baton Rouge, a single rumor has the power to change a girl’s life forever.
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.
This book was really cool! I found it on NetGalley because the cover caught my eye and I was really intrigued by it and the summary. When I started reading it, I was pleasantly surprised by the plot of it, because too be honest I had forgotten what it was about. It was fascinating how a novel set in the early 90s still contains such relevant issues to 2019. It was also really interesting to read a book set the year after I was born because I know surprisingly little about the early 90s.
The main character, Athena, was a very relatable protagonist. She wants to be a good feminist and identifies as a riotgrrl and pro choice despite the Catholic private school she attends. She struggles with trying to be positive with her thoughts when it comes to the other girls she interacts with despite some of them being truly awful. It’s something that I personally struggle with at times. I also related to her struggles about whether the guy she liked actually liked her or not.
All the characters in this book were fairly well developed. Athena was well rounded and dynamic, and I loved watching her relationship with her sister grow and develop. Her sister was also a well developed character and grew as a person over the course of the book. Obviously, not all the characters were round, but the side characters all served a purpose and there was no one that was really needlessly introduced.
The general girl power/girls supporting girls theme of this book was really well done and is still very relevant to today’s society. I know nothing about riotgrrls and that type of thing, but I found it really interesting to explore that through Athena and her best friend Melissa. Their friendship was a really strong feature of the book.
I won’t spoil the ending, but I felt that it was appropriate for a book about teenagers as there was a happy ending but not everything was perfectly resolved. It hinted towards a more positive future, and I think that’s the perfect way for a teen drama to end.
The discussion of abortion in this book was handled really well. The comparison of pro choice and pro life felt nuanced and in depth. There was a definite bias towards pro choice, which I personally appreciated, but the way certain characters expressed their views felt very realistic and Helen’s, Athena’s sister, growing understanding of the abortion debate was really interesting to watch.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I highly recommend it. So when September 10th rolls around, you should go check it out!