Rebel Girls

Inkyard. Sept. 2019. 384p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781335185006.
Gr 8 Up–Athena Graves has the heart of a feminist and a soul full of riot grrrl, which guide her as she navigates her sophomore year at a Catholic high school in Baton Rouge, LA. Things are going well when her friend Melissa gets her a fake ID so she can get into 18+ shows and a cute boy with the right badges on his backpack starts paying attention to her. Then Athena’s sister, Helen, an aspiring model and pro-life club member, becomes the subject of rumors saying she had an abortion over the summer. Athena and Helen band together, as well as Melissa and two of Helen’s friends, to make protest patches and buttons that are ambiguous enough to stay within school policy. When that doesn’t have the desired effect, they strive to make more of a statement. The early chapters relentlessly name-drop bands that were around in 1992, mainly to establish that the book is set in that year, despite the fact that today’s teens are unlikely to recognize many of them. Stock characters fill most roles, all of whom start and end this politically charged story with the same viewpoints. Athena handles her relationships with sufficient complexity, but politically she just says the term “riot grrrl” a lot, rather than exemplifying, or even struggling with, its principles. Though she asks “What would Kathleen Hanna do?” her answers are often superficial. Despite a tidy ending, the show of perseverance when one’s beliefs are unpopular is a strength.
VERDICT Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie will better scratch your riot grrrl itch.

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