The Girls I’ve Been

Putnam. Jan. 2021. 368p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780593353806.
Gr 9 Up–Until she was 12 years old, Nora, who is white, had many names. Each came with a unique personality designed to help her mother complete the con she ran with the men she targeted. Beautiful and blonde, athletic with dark braids, and other appearances, each girl served a purpose to pull the most money out of the game. The last con ended when her mother fell in love with a man who knew the game far better than she, leading to a disastrous confrontation that sends him and Nora’s mother to prison. Rescued by her older sister, Lee, who escaped the same family dynamic, Nora is helped by therapy, her white best friend Wes, and her new love, freckled brunette Iris. Also children of abuse, they help her to regain a sense of who she really is. All of this is threatened, however, when one day they happen to be in a bank as a robbery unfolds. This action-packed story sizzles with suspense as Nora quickly grasps that this is a situation she not only understands, but all that she has learned until now can work in her favor. She is going to run a daring con to facilitate their escape. Told in alternating chapters as the bank con unfolds, readers meet each of the girls that Nora became, the results of their cons and how each shapes her, giving her the skills she uses now to escape. But Nora can’t do this alone.
VERDICT In this thriller, characters prove that they can rely on their strength, friendship, and desire to be the confident and caring people they know themselves to be.

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