Hi everyone! Today I’m going to be reviewing The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe.
The Girls I’ve Been follows Nora, the daughter of a con artist, her girlfriend (Iris), and her ex-boyfriend (Wes, who she’s still friends with) as they get caught up in the middle of a bank heist. Right from the opening pages we are flung into the action and, when things begin going wrong, the robbers realise they’ve gotten involved in more than they’ve bargained for. One thing’s for certain – Nora and her group are in danger, and it is up to her to save them.
I think one of the things which stood out to me the most in the book was definitely how different Nora’s character was. She was incredibly strong, and I really admired her bravery in the face of all the danger. The amount of love she had for Iris and Wes jumped out of the page and she made sure to put them before herself. Of course, her character was also incredibly funny and witty, too, which made for a really well balanced character!
Of course, some of Nora’s actions did fall into more of a morally grey area. Just like As Good As Dead by Holly Jackson, the Girls I’ve Been explored the idea of not everything being set in black and white. Nora faced some very difficult choices in different points of the book and some of her decisions were a bit questionable, although I could definitely see her reasoning. Still, it was slightly difficult to read in places.
Lots of these difficult decisions actually happened when she was younger. The majority of the book alternated between the present, where the characters were caught up in a bank heist, and the past, where Sharpe explored Nora’s difficult past and all the different girls she had been made to be, going all the way back to when she was six. This was definitely very useful for gaining more insight about Nora and why she’d turned out the way she did, as each of the girls had taught her a lesson which she carried forward with her.
As a result of that, Nora definitely faced some difficulties in terms of figuring out who she really was. Having spent her childhood conning people and playing different characters Nora definitely had some questions about who she was. Despite being a thriller, The Girls I’ve Been was also a book about finding yourself, which I think is something most teenagers struggle with at some point, which definitely made the book that much more relatable.
Of course, the amazing friendships in this book also made it more relatable! The bond that Iris, Wes and Nora all shared as a group was brilliant and Sharpe did a really great job with projecting how close they all were. Of course, they had their fair share of issues – Wes had caught the other two kissing the night before, and, later on, it was revealed that Nora had told Iris some pretty big lies – but seeing them work through them was really nice. Despite it being pretty awkward at the beginning, it was soon clear how much they all cared about each other, and the way they looked out for each other was brilliant.
Of course, friendship wasn’t the only type of relationship that was explored – there was also the relationship between Nora and Iris, as well as family relationships. Despite Nora’s lies, the two were really cute together, and I loved how they worked together to stop the robbers. I also really liked the bond Nora and her sister, Lee, shared, as they were really close and Lee was very protective of her younger sister, which I again found very relatable. It was nice to see her be so protective over Nora after all that she had endured during her difficult childhood.
Following on from that, The Girls I’ve Been was also, in many ways, a survivor story. Iris, Wes and Nora had all suffered at the hands of some truly horrific men, and Sharpe didn’t shy away from that (more information on trigger warnings can be found at the end of the review). Each of them had been through some really difficult events, and I definitely think that’s one of the things which bonded them so tightly and made them that much more protective of each other.
Obviously I can’t finish this review without mentioning the action. Sharpe struck just the right balance here, as there was obviously a lot going on but there was still space for both the action and the interactions between the group. We were even provided with different types of action through the alternate chapters, which resulted in me whizzing through the book and all its contents!
Overall, I would recommend The Girls I’ve Been for anyone with a taste for fast paced thrillers, as nearly the whole book takes place over the span of just a few hours. I would also recommend it for contemporary fans, as the friendship and drama between the group was very reminiscent of that in contemporaries.
However, please be mindful that this book has a lot of trigger warnings. The main ones are physical, psychological, sexual (not explicit), parental and domestic abuse, murder, violence, and depictions of trauma and blood, although a full list can be found on the author’s website.
I hope you enjoyed this review!