Monday, July 7, 2014

Girls Like Us by Gail Giles

Girls like Us is told in alternating narratives,  from the perspective of Biddy and Quincy.  Both are a product of the special education system or "speddies" as Quincy refers to them, who are paired to live together to try and make their way in the world.  Each girl has a uniquely different voice and each has seemingly insurmountable obstacles to overcome.  This book broke my heart in so many ways.  Sweet and kind Biddy, distant and angry Quincy, both have led an unbelievably tragic life, both have been failed by a broken system.   And while this seems like an overly depressing book, there is a great deal of hope.  A very well deserved Starred Review. 

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In compelling, engaging, and raw voices, 18-year-olds Biddy and Quincy, newly independent, intellectually disabled high-school graduates, narrate their growing friendship and uneasy transition into a life of jobs, real world apartments, and facing cruel prejudice. Obese and illiterate Biddy has more emotional intelligence than Quincy, whose normal brain development was shattered when her mother’s boyfriend hit her with a brick when she was six. Biddy’s limited cognitive capacities spring from oxygen deprivation during birth as well as lifelong deprivation of nurturing. Paired by a social service program, the girls are made roommates in a live-work placement where they share a small apartment at the home of a wealthy, sensitive, and supportive widow, Elizabeth. Biddy cleans and provides physical assistance for Elizabeth, while Quincy, who loves cooking, works at a market. Biddy and Quincy share deep secrets and narrate lives heartrendingly full of anger, abandonment, and abuse, including explicit, realistic descriptions of two rapes. But with the help of patient Elizabeth and the support they gain from each other, they are empowered to move forward with strength and independence. Giles (Dark Song, 2010) offers a sensitive and affecting story of two young women learning to thrive in spite of their hard circumstances. Grades 8-12. --Francisca Goldsmith

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