The Girls I’ve Been: Review


A slick, twisty YA page-turner about the daughter of a con artist who is taken hostage in a bank heist.

Nora O’Malley’s been a lot of girls. As the daughter of a con-artist who targets criminal men, she grew up as her mother’s protégé. But when mom fell for the mark instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con: escape.

For five years Nora’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’re all friends, Wes didn’t know about her and Iris.

#2: The morning after Wes finds them kissing, they all have to meet to deposit the fundraiser money they raised at the bank. It’s a nightmare that goes from awkward to deadly, because:

#3: Right after they enter bank, two guys start robbing it.

The bank robbers may be trouble, but Nora’s something else entirely. They have no idea who they’re really holding hostage…

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


I started this one on a whim, simply because it sounded interesting and the cover drew me in. Initially, what I was expecting was a clever, teenage heist novel that would be, at most, entertaining. And yet, I got so much more from this novel and it far exceeded my expectations.

The way the novel starts off instantly had me completely engrossed. As the story unfolds and we’re taken back into Nora’s past, I was hooked on the mystery of her life and fervently anticipating uncovering her secrets.

First and foremost, Tess’ writing is absolutely incredible. It’s intellectual and drawls beautifully with a metaphorical prose that I couldn’t help but highlight passages upon passages all throughout the novel. It carries and details Nora’s life trauma in a subtle yet strong way that makes it the perfect novel for all readers regardless of its targeted audience.

Speaking of trauma, what I loved most about this novel was the way it delved into Nora’s development as a character who is struggling to figure out who she is in a world where she’s only ever been someone else. As well as her development in coming to terms with realizing she is not at fault for actions that have been done against her person. It’s an experience and intellectual journey of discovery that I feel many can relate to.

THE GIRLS IVE BEEN portrays sexual assault, grooming by a loved one, physical abuse at the hands of someone you trust, found family, self discovery, and the positive effect of therapy all in a clever yet subtle way. I especially liked that each of these were introduced in the novel in a way that felt very natural. Each character has their own traumatic experience that are not automatically revealed but rather shown in a way that a reader ‘sees’ rather than ‘reads’ about. All this while a riveting heist is occurring and thus made the novel completely unputdownable for me.

I highly recommend if you’re looking for a refreshing, thrilling, well written and structured YA novel that goes more in depth on teen emotional and psychological trauma.

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