With gentle humor and unflinching realism, Gail Giles tells the gritty, ultimately hopeful story of two special ed teenagers entering the adult world. We understand stuff. Read more...
With gentle humor and unflinching realism, Gail Giles tells the gritty, ultimately hopeful story of two special ed teenagers entering the adult world. 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 their first "real world" apartment, it initially seems to be an uneasy fit. But as Biddy's past resurfaces and Quincy faces a harrowing experience that no 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. 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.
- ISBN-13: 9780763662677
- ISBN-10: 0763662674
- Publisher: Candlewick Press (MA)
- Publish Date: May 2014
- Page Count: 210
- Reading Level: Ages 14-17
- Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.4 x 0.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.7 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-03-10
- Reviewer: Staff
Following graduation from their high school’s special education track, two girls become wards of the state and are placed in an apartment where they live independently and cook and clean for their neighbor/employer, an older woman named Elizabeth. Sharp-tongued and aggressive, Quincy is defensive about her learning difficulties and the physical scars left by the source of her brain damage, “when my mama’s boyfriend hit my head with a brick.” Sensitive Biddy, who describes herself as having “moderate retardation,” overeats to mask past traumas, which include having given up her baby. Giles’s (Dark Song) background teaching special education students informs this blunt, honest, and absorbing story about two young women overcoming challenges that have less to do with their abilities to read or write than with how society views and treats them. In short, alternating chapters, the girls narrate in raw and distinct voices that capture their day-to-day hurdles, agony, and triumphs. The “found family” that builds slowly for Quincy, Biddy, and Elizabeth—with no shortage of misunderstandings, mistrust, or tears—is rewarding and powerful. Ages 14–up. Agent: Scott Treimel, Scott Treimel NY. (June)
Two special-ed teens venture into the adult world
Developmentally disabled teens Biddy and Quincy have just graduated from high school. Biddy’s been living with her grandmother, and Quincy with various foster families, but now they need jobs and new living arrangements. A team of counselors arranges for the two graduates to share an apartment above a local widow’s garage. At first, Quincy and Biddy resent each other’s company, and mixed-race Quincy isn’t sure how she feels about interacting with a white landlady. But their strengths and weaknesses complement each other, and soon all three discover a sense of family and belonging that’s long eluded them.
Like other books in the emerging “new adult” category, Girls Like Us tackles issues like transitioning from school to work, paying bills for the first time and negotiating chores and boundaries with roommates. (There’s no consensual sex, although characters grapple with the lasting effects of sexual assault.) In alternating first-person narrations inspired by author Gail Giles’ longtime work with special-education students, Biddy and Quincy talk openly about their feelings, fears and daily struggles and triumphs. Sections are short (sometimes as brief as a paragraph or a single sentence), and the girls’ language is realistically simple.
This highly readable story is a welcome addition to a growing literature about teens with mental and physical challenges. Echoing the characters in John Green’s seminal YA novel The Fault in Our Stars, these two newly independent teens know that their disabilities aren’t their fault—and aren’t the only factors that define who they are.
Jill Ratzan reviews for School Library Journal and works as a school librarian at a small independent school in New Jersey. She learned most of what she knows about YA literature from her terrific graduate students.