Most of the books I’ve read this year so far have been pretty good, but I’ve have some absolutely awesome reads too, and Tess Sharpe’s The Girls I’ve Been is one of them. I read this in almost a single sitting because I just could not put it down. Stunningly sharp and full of twists, this book really was one I wanted to rave about from the moment I finished it.
Nora O’Malley is a lot of things. A sister. An ex. A secret girlfriend. Kind of crooked, but reformed… somewhat.
Nora O’Malley’s been a lot of girls. As the daughter of a con-artist who targets criminal men, she grew up her mother’s protege. But when mom fell for the mark instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con: escape.
For five years she’s been playing at normal. But she needs to dust off the skills she ditched because she has three problems:
#1: her ex walked in on her with her girlfriend. Even though they’ve all been inseparable for months, Wes didn’t know about her and Iris.
#2: The morning after, they all have to meet to deposit the fundraiser money they raised together. It’s a nightmare that goes from awkward to deadly.
Because #3: right after they get in the bank, two guys start robbing it.
But they have no idea who they’re really holding hostage.
The robbers are trouble. Nora’s something else entirely.
Of all the characters I’ve ever met, Nora is one that I’ve had some of the most empathy for. She’s been through so much and is still standing, thanks to her sister, therapy – and mainly herself.
I really respected so many of the representations in this book: sapphic love, bisexuality, abuse survival, healing through therapy, endometriosis suffering… and the fact that when your hand is forced, you do whatever you have to to survive.
The layout of the book was really engaging, switching between the current events and the previous girls that Nora has been forced to be, as well as giving the tools and plans Nora has to hand whilst in the bank. This really keeps the tension building, and keeps your interest on multiple things, as well as helping you keep track of what exactly is going on. The fact that the past identities are on grey paper and current events on white really helps keep it interesting too, because you can see when you’re going to get another flash of the past.
This easily goes into one of my top books of the year, and when it comes to reflecting back on the books at the end of the year (I’m thinking here of the 2020 version of the Character Tag I filled in a while ago), I will really remember the friendships demonstrated, and also the relationship between Nora and her sister Lee. There is an utter strength in that relationship that has been through hell and back to be earned.
I’ll be recommending this book to people for months to come, if not longer, and it will be one of those I wish I could read for the first time again.