Girls Like Us is the first book I’ve read by Randi Pink, and I definitely enjoyed it. I was born after the story’s events, but I remember this issue coming up in S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders when Sodapop’s girlfriend Sandy is sent away to “live with her grandmother in Florida.” Does this still happen today? How will things change for today’s women if Roe v. Wade is overturned?
In rural Georgia, two pregnant teen girls navigate their newly-discovered pregnancies. Missippi is 14 and lives with her father, who drives a truck and is gone often. Sixteen-year old Ola finds out she is pregnant with her boyfriend’s child, and only her sister Izella knows about it. In Chicago, 17-year old Sue has also just found out she is pregnant by her boyfriend. Sue’s family is wealthy, and her father is an anti-abortion senator. The three teens come together at Miss Pearline’s home for pregnant girls in Chicago. Each teen girl–Missippi, Izella, Ola, and Sue–gets their own voice in alternating chapters.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT GIRLS LIKE US
Today is May 7, 2022. In the news right now, the Supreme Court is expected to overturn Roe v. Wade any day. With all the current news and ever-tightening state restrictions on abortion, this book is a great way for teens to see what life was like for pregnant teens before abortion became legal in the USA. The three pregnant teens have very little agency over their own lives and choices. Everything is directed or determined by their parents’ choices and attitudes, which for Ola’s and Sue’s parents, are largely directed by shame and embarrassment rather than giving their teen girls any kind of choice.
The characters. Sue, Izella, Ola, and Missippi each get their own chapters. Each character and voice is distinct.
Girls Like Us isn’t so much pro-abortion as it is pro-choice; in fact, abortion is barely discussed until the very end. Two of the girls truly want to keep their babies. For the third, the pregnancy is a trap with the potential to force her into a life she doesn’t want. Legal abortion isn’t possible in the story, but even if it were, I think only one of the girls would have chosen to have an abortion.
The Author’s Note is worth reading! It talks about why Randi Pink wrote this book.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE ABOUT GIRLS LIKE US
Izella’s dominance over Ola irritated me, and as a result, Izella’s chapters were my least favorite.
Izella is the only non-pregnant voice in Girls Like Us, but her sister Ola’s pregnancy affects Izella greatly. Ola doesn’t seem to be the brightest bulb, but it isn’t Izella’s job to save her sister from making mistakes. Ola may be naive, but she’s still entitled to make her own choices. If Izella stopped parenting her sister, Ola would probably be just fine. Maybe Ola would make a bad decision now and then–maybe even a LOT of bad decisions–but she’d at least have the agency to learn and grow from it. They are Ola’s mistakes to make, not Izella’s to lawnmow out of her way.
The Epilogue added nothing to the story. I find it difficult to believe that a Supreme Court decision overturning Roe would literally take effect just the very second it was passed down, while women were still in the waiting room for an abortion. Maybe if that epilogue had happened at the beginning–and without the protagonists as the girl’s grandmothers–it would have had more impact.
DIVERSITY IN GIRLS LIKE US
Of the four main female characters, three are Black and one is white.
LIBRARIANS WILL WANT TO KNOW
Themes: teen pregnancy, misogyny, abortion, Roe v. Wade, women’s rights, incest, sexual abuse, friendship, fathers and daughters, YA’s best fathers, mothers and daughters, childbirth, US history
Would adults like Girls Like Us? YES
Would I buy Girls Like Us for my high school library? YES
Would I buy Girls Like Us for my middle school library? Mmm…maybe, but probably not. The trigger warnings below wouldn’t stop me from buying this for middle school; it’s the idea of abortion and teen pregnancy that makes this title better for high school in my opinion. It just feels a bit mature below about 8th grade.
Language: Contains some profanity (including sh** and fu**), but it isn’t gratuitous.
Sexuality: Mild–Some remembered intercourse and non-descript child sexual abuse (described in terms of fear and pain rather than body parts and actions).
Violence: Mild–child sexual abuse (not described), rape (not described)
Drugs/Alcohol: minor teen character makes and drinks moonshine; homemade tonic to induce abortion
Other: minor character with PTSD after returning from the Vietnam War; two childbirth scenes; spoiler alert—> highlight to see —> one self-induced abortion that results in death of the teen mother
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Have you read Girls Like Us? What did you think?