Rebel Girls by Elizabeth Keenan
Inkyard Press, 2019, 413 pages
Trigger Warnings: abortion, somewhat graphic imagery of abortion, bullying, implied racism
About the Author: Elizabeth Keenan is a cat and punk rock loving, New York City living, real life representation of the modern riot grrrl. She uses her PhD in punk rock in an academic setting through the means of music publications, gender and sexuality, and third wave feminism. When she isn’t writing or being a genius in the realm of punk rock, Keenan is a real estate agent in the big city.
You can find more of Elizabeth Keenan at https://elizabethkeenanwrites.com/ or @badcoverversion on Twitter.
“This wasn’t like talking back to a teacher or getting caught with a note. This was about standing up for something in front of everyone, with all the risks attached.”
Punk rock is alive and well in 1992 Baton Rouge, especially in the heart and soul of Athena Graves, a self-proclaimed (or at least trying to be) riot grrrl. Unlike her best friend Melissa, who rallied for the pro-choice movement over the break, Athena is heading into sophomore year and feeling like she missed out on some of the action after spending the summer in Eugene, Oregon with her mom and younger sister, Helen. Her eye is quickly caught by the cute new boy, Kyle, and the head-turning Bikini Kill pin on his backpack. It’s high school though, so her fantasy of sprinkling in the perfect amount of drama and the possibility for the perfect punk rock love story goes awry when rumors start spreading about Athena’s pro-life younger sister having had an abortion over the summer. If that were true, per St. Ann’s Regional Diocesan Catholic High School rules, Helen could be expelled. One of the most important rules of being a riot grrrl is supporting your fellow woman. So despite their differing views, Athena, Helen, and the gals put their heads together to figure out how to convince their peers and administration that it doesn’t affect anyone but Helen whether she did or whether she didn’t…or any other girl for that matter.
Keenan transports her reader back in time to a world where Pearl Jam and Nirvana are soo last year and as a grunge kid, you’ll do anything to not be “a phony Holden Caulfield would hate.” She skillfully gives a healthy dosage of feminist ideals and a woman’s right to choose in a captivating story perfect for a young adult audience. The ability to work together toward a common purpose among people with differing opinions is wonderfully exemplified, along with the ability to handle a difficult and hurtful situation with grace and just the slightest bit of rebellion. Rebel Girls is perfect for anyone who loves strong, intelligent, and empowered women.
PRR Writer, Machaela Raney
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