Loved it!

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Here is how you know that Jennifer Mathieu is an incredible writer: I started the first chapter of this book thinking “wow I hate every single person here”, and by the end of it? I was in love. The titular “bad” girls have so much heart, and are just trying to come of age in a world that doesn’t want them to live outside of some ridiculous patriarchal and arbitrary rules.

It’s 1964 Texas, which is comparable to… well, 2021 Texas as it turns out. Racism, sexism, and homophobia are rampant. Schools are still segregated, and pretty much everyone who isn’t a straight white guy is treated as “less than”. Evie sees this early in the book, when she is attacked by an acquaintance on the way to the bathroom. She realizes that it doesn’t matter how forcefully she yells for him to stop, and he taunts her with that realization.

Throughout the book, the girls face these aggressions from every direction: In school, in their families, among their peers. It’s beyond disheartening, and it could easily wear the girls down. But in this story, Evie and her group decide to fight back and stick together in the face of oppression. Many people tell them they can’t/won’t succeed without tying themselves to some man, that they must behave a certain way. Evie even has arguments with her own mother, who insists that the only way for Evie to be successful is to be saddled to some guy. But again, Evie and her friends aren’t taking these messages lying down.

Without giving away too much (because the synopsis is fairly vague), there is a story about teen pregnancy. It’s powerful, because so many of the societal responses to a young woman’s pregnancy are exactly the same today as they were fifty-plus years ago. The girl “had gotten herself pregnant”, say the masses. When in reality, that is positively absurd and not at all how biology works, I have heard that very phrase in this actual century. And now, here we are, dealing with women’s rights being stripped in Texas. The timing for this release is perfect; for it illustrates how positively vile these laws are, how harmful to so, so many people. How losing control of your reproductive rights means losing control of your agency, of your entire body.

Bottom Line: Read this book, fall in love with it, then donate to the organization of your choice (see below). (Links included in actual post)