Title: Girls Like Us
Author: Gail Giles
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: May 27, 2014
I had no idea what to expect from this book – and I was so, so, so pleasantly surprised.
A brief excerpt from the author’s website:
We understand stuff. We just learn it slow. And most of what we understand is that people what ain’t Speddies think we too stupid to get out our own way. And that makes me mad.
Quincy and Biddy are both graduates of their high school’s special ed program, but they couldn’t be more different: suspicious Quincy faces the world with her fists up, while gentle Biddy is frightened to step outside her front door. When they’re thrown together as roommates in the first “real world” apartments it initially seems like an uneasy fit. But as Biddy’s past resurfaces and Quincy faces something that on one should have to go through alone, the two of them realize that they might have more in common than they thought–and more important, that they might be able to help each other move forward, together.
Hard-hitting and compassionate, Girls Like Us is a story about growing up in a world that can be cruel and finding the strength–and the support–to carry on.
Girls Like Us shifts in perspective, with Quincy and Biddy telling their story in turns. Both of them are such different characters but yet eventually they find ways that they are able to help each other. I found ways to empathize with both of them throughout the story, as they were likable and relatable in varied ways.
It’s not often that you get a book from the perspective of a person who is mentally challenged in some way – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime is one of the only ones I can think of off the top of my head. And for this book to provide insight into two great characters is a privilege. One complaint I noticed in other Goodreads reviews was that certain readers were concerned that the author was trying to push a certain view of these individuals, and that readers might think that all special education students are like Biddy and/or Quincy. I disagree – I think that Gail Giles does a fabulous job of presenting two aspects of what it might be like to live as a person with mental challenges. They certainly aren’t the standard or the mold for everyone, and I think most readers would realize that.
I loved this book because it was so focused on these two female characters, and the older woman who they work for and who grows to care for them, even if she doesn’t always show it in the right way. That the book centered on the friendship between three women of different ages and different abilities completely won me over. Plus, the prose is gorgeous and the story heartfelt. It was hard to read at times because it was so emotionally charged – but it was definitely worth it.
5 out of 5 stars.