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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. Bu 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…


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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. Bu 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…

30 review for The Girls I've Been

  1. 5 out of 5

    daph pink ♡

    Okay so like Millie bobby brown is gonna play the role of Nora in netflix adaptation . I am screaming. Omg when I was reading I was thinking that this could be a really good for a movie adaptation and they like already announced everything. ⤵Detailed review 4* I was here for morally grey bi girls and I experienced so much more * stars Welcome to chemistry class of Daph Pink , today we will learn the formula for the book The Girls I 've been (take notes students) bank heist + dark past mystery + Okay so like Millie bobby brown is gonna play the role of Nora in netflix adaptation . I am screaming. Omg when I was reading I was thinking that this could be a really good for a movie adaptation and they like already announced everything. ⤵Detailed review 4* I was here for morally grey bi girls and I experienced so much more * stars Welcome to chemistry class of Daph Pink , today we will learn the formula for the book The Girls I 've been (take notes students) bank heist + dark past mystery + beautiful friendship + a sapphic main relationship + mother/daughter con team relationship, witty remarks + morally grey characters What didn’t kill me didn’t make me stronger; what didn’t kill me made me a victim. But I made me stronger. I made me a survivor.” Well I was so intrigued when I read the the title and instantly my mind started making all the possible assumptions , what could it mean? Trust me it's worth finding. Let's dive into the detailed review ( in gun points ) 🔫 Plot “Girls like me, we prepare for the storm.” - The story is all about a survival story , its about going through worst moments and coming out strong but bruised and ready to face anything. The story jumps back and forth in timeline simultaneously telling us the present story and what happened with Nora 4 years back. At the beginning of each current event chapter, it told how long they had been held captive, what tools they had at their aid, and what their working plan was. It reveals little bits and pieces of Nora’s life to the reader without being info dumpy or too heavy. This book is full of quotes and moments that will bring tears to your eyes, that will make you scream in rage at the unfairness of the world towards woman/girls in general. This book has a little of something for everyone, and paired with the incredible plot line that follows a teen con artist—well it’s hard to think of a reason not to read it.Sharpe also meticulously intertwines the complexity of Nora’s relationships now and how they are affected by her past, making the book every bit as much a drama as it is an action thriller.   🔫 Writing -The pacing of this story is good. The chapters are quick, and the dialogue and story are as well. The authors writing skill add a specific tone to the book which is only seen in Sharpe's books. I think the author did a great job of balancing the dark and heavy parts of this book with the humous and thrilling bits. let's all take some time to appreciate author for mentioning Iris's condition of endometriosis and how she had an abortion in past plus Nora's therapy which is usually missing from y/a and is important to discuss. 🔫 Impressively characterized - Nora is one hell of a character , she is someone you don't wanna meet alone in dark alley but at the same time fall in love with. Beware she is a con artist , kinda scary but totally cool and 100 % badass. The depth of Nora's strength and resilience is incredible Wes and Iris are both awesome characters, and they have their own backgrounds and depth of character to bring to the story, but my favourite side character has to be Nora’s sister who is fantastic and a little scary. I loved there friendship and how they were all victims and survivors of their own stories.It would be great if friendships between exes could be normalised in YA. I enjoyed the sapphic romance but I was disappointed as there were more discussion of Wes and Nora relationship rather than Nora and Iris . 🔫 Cinematic thriller -I thought it was really fast paced and engaging. As the plans that Nora, Iris and Wes keep coming up with start to run out or don’t work out and the stakes are heightened the novel becomes really intense which makes it even more of a page turner.The thrilling aspect of the story would be enough alone, but the emotional and deep parts of this story take it to another level for me. They are that boost from entertaining, to entertaining and impactful for me. 🔫 Ending - the main reason why I didn't gave the book 5 stars, it sort of felt incomplete or more than required. Like the ending was sudden which I am not a huge fan of. This book was not quite what I expected it to be, but I still enjoyed it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    may ➹

    Tess Sharpe and her morally grey bi girl agenda never disappoint! —★— The Girls I’ve Been follows Nora, the daughter of a con artist, who gets caught in the middle of a bank heist with her girlfriend Iris and ex-boyfriend-but-still-friend Wes. Tess Sharpe’s books are always cutting, both her characters and her writing sharp and smart, and this is especially true in this novel. I love her portrayal of messy, morally grey girls, a little broken and battered but still fighting to survive. The way she Tess Sharpe and her morally grey bi girl agenda never disappoint! —★— The Girls I’ve Been follows Nora, the daughter of a con artist, who gets caught in the middle of a bank heist with her girlfriend Iris and ex-boyfriend-but-still-friend Wes. Tess Sharpe’s books are always cutting, both her characters and her writing sharp and smart, and this is especially true in this novel. I love her portrayal of messy, morally grey girls, a little broken and battered but still fighting to survive. The way she writes trauma and abuse in The Girls I’ve Been is heartbreaking and nuanced, and I appreciate how Sharpe never shies away from the messier sides of survival and treats characters with so much grace and respect. The world is tilting again. But I have people to hold on to. People to fight for. And that is so different than just fighting for yourself. This book does a beautiful job of showing healing with other people who have been through similar pain, but I of course was engrossed in Nora’s story particularly. She has several past identities who all “taught” her something in their own ways, and how she lives now was shaped by her mother and every man they conned. She is trying to figure out how exactly she fits into the world, a struggle we can all relate to but something even more difficult for her as someone who was never allowed to exist as herself and was always forced into another girl’s identity. So many parts of her story felt like a punch in the gut, but it only made her growth throughout the short time span of the book all the more compelling and moving to read. What didn’t kill me didn’t make me stronger; what didn’t kill me made me a victim. But I made me stronger. I made me a survivor. I was also impressed by the execution of dual timelines in this book—you are kept on your toes as the past slowly unravels, and there’s no drop in suspense between the various timelines. The main plot point of the book (the bank heist) also only lasts a few hours, but it doesn’t feel dragged out or boring. I think one of the main reasons I don’t particularly care for thrillers in comparison to other genres is because there is a larger emphasis on plot and suspense/mystery rather than characters, but The Girls I’ve Been is a delightful combination of both. This is only the second YA thriller I’ve read from her, but I think Sharpe is truly a master of the genre like no other. “This isn’t about what you want!” “But it is,” I say, and there’s the truth, the one I’ve created for myself. There’s something very special about this book, in the way that it presents characters who aren’t truly okay but are slowly learning to be. Terrible things happen to them, especially by the hands of men, but there’s still a sense of hope. It’s not false, unrealistic optimism, but a quiet, fervent belief that they have their own identity and agency to reclaim, certainly impacted by the trauma they faced but not defined by it. It is this that is so powerful about The Girls I’ve Been—and particularly the ending—and makes it so memorable. This is truly a book I won’t forget, and I couldn’t recommend it more. —★— :: representation :: bi MC, wlw LI with endometreosis :: content warnings :: physical abuse, psychological abuse, (child) sexual abuse (not explicit), parental abuse, domestic abuse, murder, violence, depictions of trauma, depictions of blood [more details] Thank you to Penguin Teen for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! This did not affect my opinion in any way. All quotes are from an advance copy and may differ in final publication.

  3. 4 out of 5

    theresa

    The Girls I’ve Been is a gripping, twisty thriller unlike anything I’ve ever read. Taking place over the course of only a few hours, Sharpe takes her readers on a high-stakes journey through past, present and six very different girls. Nora O’Malley, our main character, is truly the star of the show. She’s a morally grey badass ex con artist who would die for those she loves, what more could you want? The narrative style created a real connection with her and was both effortless and enjoyable to r The Girls I’ve Been is a gripping, twisty thriller unlike anything I’ve ever read. Taking place over the course of only a few hours, Sharpe takes her readers on a high-stakes journey through past, present and six very different girls. Nora O’Malley, our main character, is truly the star of the show. She’s a morally grey badass ex con artist who would die for those she loves, what more could you want? The narrative style created a real connection with her and was both effortless and enjoyable to read. I loved seeing how Nora’s past influenced her, both helping and hurting her. Sharpe handled discussions of trauma, recovery and therapy with incredible sensitivity while refusing to sugar coat the horrific nature of Nora’s past. I also adored Nora’s chosen family and her relationships with them: her sister, Lee; her girlfriend, Iris and her ex-boyfriend turned ‘franken-friend’, Wes. Through these characters, The Girls I’ve Been touches on other forms of trauma and their impact, as well as medical conditions through Iris’s endometriosis and sexuality through a bisexual main character and sapphic main relationship. This book is intense. Sharpe expertly wields a dual timeline to maximise tension and explore Nora’s past identities. I had worried that so much flashing back would take me out of the main story but the chapters from Nora’s past perspective actually ended up creating even more suspense and left me unable to put the book down. The structure of short chapters flashing between past, present and reflective asides worked really well to aid the development of Nora’s character. This book is just so cleverly crafted and unique, with the stakes just getting higher at every twist and turn. I really don’t have any complaints about this book, the only thing I would have liked is to spend a bit more time with Wes and Iris in the present. We get quite a bit of backstory and development of their relationships in the past and I’d have liked to see this continue into the present a bit more, partly just because Iris and Nora were adorable together and I wanted to see more of their relationship. Overall, The Girls I’ve Been is an utterly unique book. Sharpe combines all the typical elements of a high-stakes thriller with a nuanced look at trauma and the power of choosing your own family, all while exploring the question, ‘what makes you who you are?’. content warnings I also talk about books here: youtube | instagram | twitter *eARC received in exchange for an honest review via Netgalley*

  4. 5 out of 5

    Melanie (mells_view)

    You can’t con a con artist. Isn’t that what they always say? Content warnings from the author: bit.ly/2NcdmLP The Girls I’ve Been at it’s base is a twisty YA thriller following a teenage girl named Nora, who was raised by a con artist to be a con artist. She, her best friend, and her girlfriend are being held hostage in a bank heist, and Nora uses her retired con savvy to hopefully get them out alive. If you read TGIB, then you will find the story is more than a YA thriller. It’s an exploration in You can’t con a con artist. Isn’t that what they always say? Content warnings from the author: bit.ly/2NcdmLP The Girls I’ve Been at it’s base is a twisty YA thriller following a teenage girl named Nora, who was raised by a con artist to be a con artist. She, her best friend, and her girlfriend are being held hostage in a bank heist, and Nora uses her retired con savvy to hopefully get them out alive. If you read TGIB, then you will find the story is more than a YA thriller. It’s an exploration in healing and survival after experiencing trauma, navigating many forms of love, and a fictional look at a mother/daughter con team relationship, that I’m sure will feel scary relatable for many who have toxic relationships with their mother. I honestly enjoyed this book quite a bit. It was way deeper than I expected, and I truly felt connected in so many ways to Nora. Not only her though, because even her friends and family grab you, and you’ll want more and more of them. The thrilling aspect of the story would be enough alone, but the emotional and deep parts of this story take it to another level for me. They are that boost from entertaining, to entertaining and impactful for me. The pacing of this story is good. The chapters are quick, and the dialogue and story are as well. There is a back and forth of time jumping, and it personally took me awhile to adjust, because as I said the chapters are quick, so I felt like I was moving on as soon as I was adjusted in one time frame. That said the time jumps were necessary to establish Nora as a character, and to explore why she is who she is. So they were worth it even if I felt a little bouncy at first. The end gave me chills. I can’t say much without spoiling, but it’s poetic and the perfect end. So to close. If you’re looking for a YA that’s thrilling, mysterious, dark fun, and also has that deep emotional edge, then you MUST pick up The Girls I’ve Been! AVAILABLE NOW! *ARC

  5. 5 out of 5

    Susan's Reviews

    Standing ovation for this deadly Con Game Masterpiece: 10 out of 5 Stars! I could not put this one down!! I am still panting from the non-stop tension and action in this bank heist gone wrong! Little did the robbers know that Nora was a superhero con artist extraordinaire! Nora rubbed ALL of her enemies' noses in the dirt - with a lot of help from her two equally talented friends. I love Tess Harper's bold as brass heroines. Wes (former boyfriend, current Franken-friend) and Iris (current girlfri Standing ovation for this deadly Con Game Masterpiece: 10 out of 5 Stars! I could not put this one down!! I am still panting from the non-stop tension and action in this bank heist gone wrong! Little did the robbers know that Nora was a superhero con artist extraordinaire! Nora rubbed ALL of her enemies' noses in the dirt - with a lot of help from her two equally talented friends. I love Tess Harper's bold as brass heroines. Wes (former boyfriend, current Franken-friend) and Iris (current girlfriend) were her die-hard comrades in arms. They are friends to the death - literally almost! - despite the fact that none of them could ever truly hope to know the real Nora. Nora's mother had made her assume so many different aliases and personalities that the original Nora was lost in the shuffle. There are some really bad people in this story, not the least of whom is Nora's own mother, Abby. There are so many fabulous one-liners in this novel: Tess Sharpe is the Queen of glib dialogue. Nora constantly cracked me up, even at the very worst moments. It is a testament to Tess Sharpe's abilities that she made the "former boyfriend, current girlfriend slash three amigos" relationship work seamlessly. What an incredible story! I am not surprised this novel got optioned for a movie. Stellar writing with non-stop action - what's not to love?!!! Can't wait for the movie!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Quinn

    UPDATE: You can now read my full thoughts on this, the best book I've read so far this year, on my blog! oh my god. OH. MY GOD. review to come soon but until then: • found family • wlw between bi mc and bi/pan li with endometriosis • lovers to friends/franken-friends/family • survivors • con artistry the full list of trigger warnings can be found here UPDATE: You can now read my full thoughts on this, the best book I've read so far this year, on my blog! oh my god. OH. MY GOD. review to come soon but until then: • found family • wlw between bi mc and bi/pan li with endometriosis • lovers to friends/franken-friends/family • survivors • con artistry the full list of trigger warnings can be found here

  7. 4 out of 5

    Angela Staudt

    Thank you PenguinTeen for an eARC in exchange for an honest review. The Girls I’ve Been was nothing like I was expecting and I mean that in the best way possible. I don’t even know what genre this falls into, as I swear it had every single one in this book. Such a unique book full of twists, but also full of tough subjects. The writing was spectacular and once I got a little way into the book, I didn’t want to stop reading. The past and present chapters and how short the chapters were had me flip Thank you PenguinTeen for an eARC in exchange for an honest review. The Girls I’ve Been was nothing like I was expecting and I mean that in the best way possible. I don’t even know what genre this falls into, as I swear it had every single one in this book. Such a unique book full of twists, but also full of tough subjects. The writing was spectacular and once I got a little way into the book, I didn’t want to stop reading. The past and present chapters and how short the chapters were had me flipping pages. Nora O’Malley is the main character, and what a bad ass main character she was. She has had a very strange childhood; her mother was a con artist and would find gullible men and con them into loving her and she would steal from them. She used Nora in all of her cons and would make her the perfect daughter to fit the con. Their latest con her mother doesn’t want out of, she falls in love with the man and Nora wants out. She makes a plan and she gets out, and for five years has been living a somewhat normal life with her sister. Until she goes into the local bank to drop off money and a bank robbery is taking place. Now she is stuck in the bank with her ex-boyfriend, her new girlfriend, and no way out. She might have one more con up her sleeve though. “I don’t want to love them, and I’ve never needed to be loved by them. I learned very early, the best thing you can expect from them is pain. And the best thing you can do with a bad man is destroy him.” This book was so freaking good, I honestly don’t even know how to describe it or what to say about it. I loved the multiple timelines and how we get the present time in the bank and slowly are discovering who exactly Nora is. We also get back stories of each of the girls Nora has been during the cons that her mother did. I loved how bad ass Nora was and the more backstories I got about Nora, the more I cared and loved her. She has gone through some down right horrible things and is still processing what happened during her childhood. I loved her ex-boyfriend and her new girlfriend. They are both such amazing side characters that had so much depth to them. I really enjoyed how this ended and I am hoping there is another book because that ending has me wanting more.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Katerina Kondrenko

    5.5 out of 10 I'm struggling with the genre this book is written under. It's a mystery, contemporary, thriller, romance, queer story, heist... As if the story can't decide which way to take for good and tries all genres it can. What I Liked - How mother and daughter problems are portrayed without sidestepping, with all love, cruelty, and truth. - How a love triangle that is not a really love triangle is held. - Queer romance feels right and not far-fetched like in many books I've read befor 5.5 out of 10 I'm struggling with the genre this book is written under. It's a mystery, contemporary, thriller, romance, queer story, heist... As if the story can't decide which way to take for good and tries all genres it can. What I Liked - How mother and daughter problems are portrayed without sidestepping, with all love, cruelty, and truth. - How a love triangle that is not a really love triangle is held. - Queer romance feels right and not far-fetched like in many books I've read before. - Original chapter structure with snarky titles. - Iris! So likable character with a unique appearance and voice. What I Disliked - Nora's line and her smartness throughout the back and current stories. Too foxy, too able, too everything. - All characters have REAL psychological trauma. Each. Of. Them. That's what transforms representation into absurd. - Telling instead of showing when it comes to con past of Nora and her mother. All in all, it's a fast-paced story you won't regret your time for, but have a little suspense of disbelief.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Elle (ellexamines)

    I can't wait for the new Tess Sharpe god BLESS I can't wait for the new Tess Sharpe god BLESS

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jaye Berry

    TWs: there are a ton and the author has written them all in detail here and you should have a read before going in. Absolute fucking banger. The Girls I've Been is about a girl who goes by the name Nora who has been a bunch of different girls growing up. Her mother was a con artist who would run different cons on men, and Nora's job was to be the perfect daughter to them. On a trip to the bank, Nora and her ex boyfriend and current girlfriend are put into a sticky situation: someone is robbing it. TWs: there are a ton and the author has written them all in detail here and you should have a read before going in. Absolute fucking banger. The Girls I've Been is about a girl who goes by the name Nora who has been a bunch of different girls growing up. Her mother was a con artist who would run different cons on men, and Nora's job was to be the perfect daughter to them. On a trip to the bank, Nora and her ex boyfriend and current girlfriend are put into a sticky situation: someone is robbing it. Not to be extra but this book fucking blew my back out. This is a book about survivors doing what they do best: surviving. All of these characters are survivors, but especially Nora herself. Nora has suffered at the hands of multiple men and the carelessness of her mother and it was so heartbreaking. The way this author writes trauma and pain like... you good sis? Nora is strong and I would literally kill all men for her except she can do that herself. Absolute legend. In a sense I got a lot of similarities to the character Galaxy from Ninth House. Characters like this do honestly everything for me and I can't express how deeply they get to me besides that I'm a bitch who survives whatever shitty hand life gives me too. I am someone who survives. This book was told in only a few hours in present but then it was non-linear telling Nora's story about the girls she's been and what they taught her. I did like how it was written but dang I'm dumb and I got confused so often. I'm trash for a lot of things but I'm HELLA trash for heists, bank robberies, and locked-room thrillers. Nora really be that morally grey bi girl that everyone was hyping up too. The romance (and friendship) between Nora, Wes, and Iris SLAPPED. They were so real and sweet and I just, yes. Nora and Iris especially oh my god fk me UP ma'am. No one else I wanna get trapped in a bank robbery with. I didn't expect this book to get all up in my feels but she did that.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tess Sharpe

    Hi everyone! Tess Sharpe here. I thought I'd drop a link to the Content Warnings for this book, for anyone who needs them. CONTENT WARNINGS FOR THE GIRLS I'VE BEEN Take care, --TS Hi everyone! Tess Sharpe here. I thought I'd drop a link to the Content Warnings for this book, for anyone who needs them. CONTENT WARNINGS FOR THE GIRLS I'VE BEEN Take care, --TS

  12. 5 out of 5

    Stacee

    I will absolutely read anything Tess Sharpe puts her name on. I didn’t even need to read the synopsis to need my greedy eyes on it. I love love loved Nora. She’s smart and resourceful and strong af. It was easy to root for her from page one and heartbreaking to read some of what she’d gone through. I loved Wes and Iris and the found family aspect of this story. Plot wise, it was fantastic. I loved the past and present time flip way that the story unfolded and couldn’t get enough of whichever sec I will absolutely read anything Tess Sharpe puts her name on. I didn’t even need to read the synopsis to need my greedy eyes on it. I love love loved Nora. She’s smart and resourceful and strong af. It was easy to root for her from page one and heartbreaking to read some of what she’d gone through. I loved Wes and Iris and the found family aspect of this story. Plot wise, it was fantastic. I loved the past and present time flip way that the story unfolded and couldn’t get enough of whichever section I was in. There were a few things that surprised me, things that had me cringing, and things that had me cheering. Overall, this story was unique and captivating and officially one of my top 10 of the year. FYI: talk of past molestations, threats of rape, severe violence against women **Huge thanks to GP Putnam’s for providing the arc free of charge**

  13. 4 out of 5

    charlotte, (½ of readsrainbow)

    On my blog. Rep: bi mc, bi/pan li with endometriosis CWs: child abuse, domestic abuse, violence, threats of rape, implied torture, implied child sexual abuse Galley provided by publisher Tess Sharpe is the author of probably two of my favourite thrillers: Far From You and Barbed Wire Heart. So, it comes as no surprise that I loved The Girls I’ve Been just as much. The book covers darker topics than Far From You did, closer to Barbed Wire Heart in terms of tone, and it does so with respect and gr On my blog. Rep: bi mc, bi/pan li with endometriosis CWs: child abuse, domestic abuse, violence, threats of rape, implied torture, implied child sexual abuse Galley provided by publisher Tess Sharpe is the author of probably two of my favourite thrillers: Far From You and Barbed Wire Heart. So, it comes as no surprise that I loved The Girls I’ve Been just as much. The book covers darker topics than Far From You did, closer to Barbed Wire Heart in terms of tone, and it does so with respect and grace. I might even go so far as to say it’s probably my favourite of Tess Sharpe’s books so far. The plot switches between the present day — and the events of an attempted bank robbery — and various times in Nora’s past. We slowly get to uncover everything that has led up to this point in Nora’s life. I think hands down what I loved most about this book was the found family at the centre of it. Nora doesn’t trust easily, but those she does trust she does so unconditionally, and is incredibly loyal to them. And Sharpe is so good at making that clear through Nora’s actions. Everything in this book screams Nora’s love of Wes and Ivy and Lee. It’s the kind of relationship that will make you want there to be, oh maybe 500 more pages. I can guarantee you that you won’t want to put this book down for many reasons, and this is a key one. But there’s also the plot. Tess Sharpe is expert at slowly building up the tension, and that’s the second reason you won’t be able to put this book down. You’ll be so driven to find out exactly what is happening and why, and whether Wes, Nora and Ivy escape, that you’ll finish the book in a single sitting. Which, really, makes it the best kind of book. Characters you will love and root for, a fast-moving plot that you won’t want to even blink while reading in case you miss something, and overall just a highly satisfying story. All of which to say: in two weeks’ time, I really hope you’ll pick this one up.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Donna Backshall

    3 1/2 stars for the story, 2 (grudging) stars for the audiobook narration Shaking my head here. The production of the audiobook was WAY off. It's like whoever was directing this production said "Over-act everything. Make every word sound like you're spitting it out in excruciating pain." As a listener, the (at best) tremulous or (at worst) agonized delivery got old fast. I can't say how many times I rolled my eyes. Every exposed secret can't be THE THING that breaks you. I wish my library had the K 3 1/2 stars for the story, 2 (grudging) stars for the audiobook narration Shaking my head here. The production of the audiobook was WAY off. It's like whoever was directing this production said "Over-act everything. Make every word sound like you're spitting it out in excruciating pain." As a listener, the (at best) tremulous or (at worst) agonized delivery got old fast. I can't say how many times I rolled my eyes. Every exposed secret can't be THE THING that breaks you. I wish my library had the Kindle version available, because I would have gladly switched to reading and been much happier. I held on until the end, but it was difficult to take in all that stress.

  15. 4 out of 5

    michelle (magical reads)

    4.25 stars rep: bisexual protagonist, bisexual love interest with endometriosis, wlw side character cw: child abuse, domestic abuse, violence, threats of rape, implied torture, implied child sexual abuse, parental abuse (emotional, physical) this was so good omg the pacing and the present/past chapters were so well done

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    TW: child abuse, domestic abuse, assault, threats of sexual assault, mentions/discussions of child sexual abuse, abortion. There is so much more to this story than what's written in the synopsis. A non-linear tale switching between the bank heist gone wrong and the events in Nora's past that shaped her into who she is today. It's equal parts thrilling and heart breaking. TW: child abuse, domestic abuse, assault, threats of sexual assault, mentions/discussions of child sexual abuse, abortion. There is so much more to this story than what's written in the synopsis. A non-linear tale switching between the bank heist gone wrong and the events in Nora's past that shaped her into who she is today. It's equal parts thrilling and heart breaking.

  17. 4 out of 5

    koh

    someone gave me a book with a bisexual abuse survivor with an thrilling plot and sapphic established relationship and wow?? absolutely loved it We follow Nora, the daughter of a con-artist who finds herself trapped in a bank during a robbery with her girlfriend, Iris and her ex-boyfriend, Wes. The narrative is non-linear and we see flashbacks to the past and the robbery, seeing how the girl's she's been have helped shape who she is now. I wanted to know more about both her past lives and the pres someone gave me a book with a bisexual abuse survivor with an thrilling plot and sapphic established relationship and wow?? absolutely loved it We follow Nora, the daughter of a con-artist who finds herself trapped in a bank during a robbery with her girlfriend, Iris and her ex-boyfriend, Wes. The narrative is non-linear and we see flashbacks to the past and the robbery, seeing how the girl's she's been have helped shape who she is now. I wanted to know more about both her past lives and the present happenings and this book kept me on the edge. At its core, this book is for and about abuse survivors, never fearing to confront the realities of our lives but also never letting the violence feel gratuitous. It's hopeful and and something I've sorely needed, that shows that we can get out and heal and that our trauma doesn't have to define our lives. Also Lee, Nora's sister is amazing and supportive and rescues Nora from their mom and I loved her. plus I'm very gay for Nora and so many "she did that moments" Everything does seems to go Nora's way very easily but that didn't bother me because I was so engrossed by the fast paced plot and her relationships with Iris, Wes and Lee. Also I really love it when morally grey characters have soft spots for random children and we got that!! If you grew attached to characters in The Foxhole Court, you should pick this up!! rep: bisexual mc, bi/pan li with endometriosis content warnings: physical assault, violence, domestic abuse, psychological & emotional abuse, parental abuse (psychological, emotional and physical), past csa, gunshot and stabbing wounds, discussion of reproductive health Thank you to edelweiss and Penguin Publishing Group for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion in any way.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    If you are one of those people who doesn't read YA crime fiction, first of all you should sit with that for a while. Second of all, if you need to see just how great the genre can be, this is a great place to start. If you have been reading YA crime, know that this is more like the heavy books of Tiffany D. Jackson than some of the lighter entries in the genre. I was willing to start out accepting the premise, that our protagonist Nora is caught in a bank heist and that she is also a practiced co If you are one of those people who doesn't read YA crime fiction, first of all you should sit with that for a while. Second of all, if you need to see just how great the genre can be, this is a great place to start. If you have been reading YA crime, know that this is more like the heavy books of Tiffany D. Jackson than some of the lighter entries in the genre. I was willing to start out accepting the premise, that our protagonist Nora is caught in a bank heist and that she is also a practiced con artist. It started off rather bouncy and I was willing to go along for the ride. But by the end, this was as deep a consideration of trauma as any adult crime novel (more than most!) and really, it's just YA because we are spending time with teenagers and there is YA-ish friendship and love drama. (Although, again, I'd argue that adult crime novels are pretty bad at friendship and love drama, so this may even be better.) I, for one, would happily see more love interests with perfect vintage dresses and poofy crinolines, and former-love-interests-now-best-friends in my serious adult crime fiction, thank you. If at first you have to suspend some disbelief to believe that a 17-year-old could be a con artist, you don't have to suspend it for long. Along with taking us through the bank robbery minute by minute, Nora also takes us through her history, the different girls she's been in her mother's long grifts. As time passes, the circumstances of the robbery get more complicated and the story of Nora's history gets darker. By the end, you believe in her ability to do just about anything, it's impressive work by Sharpe. We also get a real and involving emotional journey as Nora confronts serious danger to herself and those she loves, and is able to channel the survival skills from her previous lives to finally go to something good. Solid ending, though it does leave you hankering for a sequel. I would certainly not be opposed. Also more casually bisexual characters. Here we had three queer women included in our central characters, and while one is closeted, there's not a lot of emphasis on queer suffering here. I did the audiobook, read by the author, and she's fantastic. Some pretty serious content warnings, including physical and sexual abuse of a child, though it's generally not on the page, there's enough detail to be difficult for readers that have those particular triggers.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Danika at The Lesbrary

    I was immediately hooked by this premise. First of all, there is the awkward social situation of Nora, Wes, and Iris being trapped together: Wes walked in on them kissing and is not impressed that they’ve been keeping this a secret–they’re all supposed to be friends. Add a potentially deadly hostage situation, and you’ve got a guarantee of tension and drama. All I really needed was for this bisexual heist/con YA novel to live up to its premise, and did it ever. When picking up a YA thriller, I wa I was immediately hooked by this premise. First of all, there is the awkward social situation of Nora, Wes, and Iris being trapped together: Wes walked in on them kissing and is not impressed that they’ve been keeping this a secret–they’re all supposed to be friends. Add a potentially deadly hostage situation, and you’ve got a guarantee of tension and drama. All I really needed was for this bisexual heist/con YA novel to live up to its premise, and did it ever. When picking up a YA thriller, I wasn’t sure what to expect: some of the darkest books I’ve read have been YA, while others keep the blood off the page. This book definitely does not shy away from violence. In fact, there is a long list of serious trigger warnings attached to this. It also hits the ground running and never lets up: the bank robbery takes place on the second page of this novel. Nora is trying to find their way out of this situation, but she hasn’t told Iris about her past. I was completely absorbed into this story. It’s fast-paced thriller about misogyny, power, and abuse. Though Nora’s life is exceptional, she points out that misogyny and being threatened by men as a young woman is not unusual, and that it’s something she learned outside of her con artist upbringing. In fact, all of the main characters have been abused by someone with power over them. I also appreciated that therapy is openly discussed: Nora still is working through the trauma she’s gone through, but she’s made progress through therapy, and it’s how she’s able to open up–even a little. This is one of my favourite reads in a long time. It’s one of those rare books that I was counting down the time until I would be able to read it again, and I stayed up to finish it. It’s hard to enthusiastically recommend a book that is so much about child abuse, but if you are a fan of thrillers that don’t shy away from darkness and violence, you won’t regret picking this up. Trigger warnings: child abuse, violence, gore, murder, rape, child sexual abuse Full review at the Lesbrary.

  20. 5 out of 5

    The Nerd Daily

    Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Maša Tome Sharpe masterfully told a story of survival while also weaving in beautiful friendships, a sapphic main relationship you will root for from the get-go, a medical condition (Iris’s endometriosis), and many witty remarks that will make you laugh out loud even in the direst of scenes. A beautiful ode to the strength and an elegy to the infinite struggles of women, The Girls I’ve Been will hook you from the start and make you think about No Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Maša Tome Sharpe masterfully told a story of survival while also weaving in beautiful friendships, a sapphic main relationship you will root for from the get-go, a medical condition (Iris’s endometriosis), and many witty remarks that will make you laugh out loud even in the direst of scenes. A beautiful ode to the strength and an elegy to the infinite struggles of women, The Girls I’ve Been will hook you from the start and make you think about Nora and her story long after you’ve closed the book. Read the FULL REVIEW on The Nerd Daily

  21. 4 out of 5

    Star

    Thank you to Hachette Australia for giving me a finished copy in exchange for an honest review. Representation: Tess is bisexual, Iris is bisexual and has endometriosis. Content warnings: parental abuse, bullying, sexual assault (child), gas-lighting, psychological abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse (not explicit) murder, violence, depictions of trauma, depictions of abuse. Full list of warnings on Tess’ blog I knew from the second read this book’s synopsis that I needed it in my life. I even marke Thank you to Hachette Australia for giving me a finished copy in exchange for an honest review. Representation: Tess is bisexual, Iris is bisexual and has endometriosis. Content warnings: parental abuse, bullying, sexual assault (child), gas-lighting, psychological abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse (not explicit) murder, violence, depictions of trauma, depictions of abuse. Full list of warnings on Tess’ blog I knew from the second read this book’s synopsis that I needed it in my life. I even marked it as “to read” on Goodreads back in early July of 2019 (!!) so that is an indication of how much I needed this book in my life. This book is fast paced, it has short chapters, and has flashbacks to Nora’s life and all of the girls she’s been. I love that this book starts with a bit of normalcy – “we’re going to deposit money at the bank” and then it turns into being victims in a bank robbery. I was hooked from the beginning and once I started, I did not want to stop reading. The plot was amazing, the flashbacks to each of the girls Nora had been were so gripping that I was dying to know exactly what happened with each girl she was, and just how they all came to be. And exactly what happened to her con-artist mother. While this book has some heavy content warnings, I would recommend it to almost anyone (trigger and content warnings to be heeded, though). My only gripe is that I would have loved to have seen more of present day Nora, Iris, Lee and Wes. I love Nora and Lee’s sister dynamic a lot, and I love that they took Wes into their lives like they did. I just needed a few more chapters of all 4 of them being wonderful. 5/5 stars More of me: Instagram | Twitter | Blog

  22. 4 out of 5

    PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps

    Fucking brilliant. 5 HUMUNGOUS STARS THE GIRLS I’VE BEEN is a brilliant take of a teenage girl, now called Nora who’s had as many aliases as her mother ran cons. Now she’s caught up in a bank heist, with her girlfriend Iris and ex boyfriend Wes. As the minutes tick by, Nora uses all her gumption to try to outsmart the robbers while her PI sister Lee waits outside. Tess Sharpe created a kick ass, bright, ballsy narrator in Nora, whatever her real name is. Nora has had to survive on lies and decepti Fucking brilliant. 5 HUMUNGOUS STARS THE GIRLS I’VE BEEN is a brilliant take of a teenage girl, now called Nora who’s had as many aliases as her mother ran cons. Now she’s caught up in a bank heist, with her girlfriend Iris and ex boyfriend Wes. As the minutes tick by, Nora uses all her gumption to try to outsmart the robbers while her PI sister Lee waits outside. Tess Sharpe created a kick ass, bright, ballsy narrator in Nora, whatever her real name is. Nora has had to survive on lies and deception, not the best qualities for a girlfriend. Her history makes trust nearly impossible, but Wes and Iris have difficult parents and pasts as well. Every kid should have a big sister like Lee. While the plot is unlikely, the characters and story transcend the implausibility and I couldn’t wait to see what happens next. For all its seriousness, THE GIRLS I’VE BEEN has some funny parts like the bank robbers’ queasiness about menstrual blood. If you like strong, yet vulnerable main characters and thrillers steeped in feminism (and who doesn’t) THE GIRLS I’VE BEEN is for you.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Elysian

    5 stars WHERE IS THE HYPE FOR THIS BOOK?! This book deserves all the hype wtf. TW: child abuse, rape, domestic abuse, violence Short list why you should read this: - morally grey bi girls being girlfriends - short chapters - ACCURATE representation of trauma. We stan therapy. - Menstruation is a thing??? Omg? It gets rep? - Lee (You will understand if you read the book) - ARSON Plot Your average teenagers are hostages in a bank heist and try to survive. They do not know that their bestie Nora has some con- 5 stars WHERE IS THE HYPE FOR THIS BOOK?! This book deserves all the hype wtf. TW: child abuse, rape, domestic abuse, violence Short list why you should read this: - morally grey bi girls being girlfriends - short chapters - ACCURATE representation of trauma. We stan therapy. - Menstruation is a thing??? Omg? It gets rep? - Lee (You will understand if you read the book) - ARSON Plot Your average teenagers are hostages in a bank heist and try to survive. They do not know that their bestie Nora has some con- artist history, which she tries to use to safe everyone. The story is told in two perspectives: One is Nora's POV of the heist and the other is Nora's past slowly getting explained through her. Very well structed and action packed, I might add. Characters What do I have to say more than morally bi girls? Iris is a very cool vintage girl with secrets. Prior con artist Nora trying to find out who she is with a dark and dangerous past. Positive best friend Wes trying to believe the best in people, but also having a dark past. It is essentially a lot of secrets, mysteries and difficult things that are happened in the past trying to get resolved in one night. AND IT IS AMAZING!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    What happens when the daughter of the Queen of Grift is held hostage during a bank heist? The answer is she knows how to get her and everyone else out safe while scaring the ever-living shit out of the two hostage takers. Sharpe's book is sharp, twisted, and fast-paced. Told primarily in a single day, the story begins as Nora, ex-boyfriend Wes, and current girlfriend Iris are in line at the bank when two men begin a robbery and take everyone inside hostage. They want keys to the vaults downstair What happens when the daughter of the Queen of Grift is held hostage during a bank heist? The answer is she knows how to get her and everyone else out safe while scaring the ever-living shit out of the two hostage takers. Sharpe's book is sharp, twisted, and fast-paced. Told primarily in a single day, the story begins as Nora, ex-boyfriend Wes, and current girlfriend Iris are in line at the bank when two men begin a robbery and take everyone inside hostage. They want keys to the vaults downstairs, and they can only get those through the manager. The manager, though, has been in a car accident on his way to the bank and won't be able to make it. From there, we see Nora start to figure out how she can use her knowledge of deceit to get everyone out safely. Between the moments of the hostage, we get flashbacks to all of the girls Nora's been. All of the identities carefully crafted by her mother, who has lived a life of grifting. She finds a man with some money, plays him, and uses Nora as a tool to make it happen. We learn through the course of this, though, Nora's played the game, too, and may be responsible for why her mother and former step-father are no longer in her lie . . . or free at all. At the heart of the story is an incredible sister relationship between Nora and her older sister Lee, who is a Private Investigator. They're close not just because of the shared lives they've had with their mother -- they didn't grow up together, as there's a big age difference -- but because of the knowledge they share about getting things done via any means necessary. A twisty, super satisfying thriller/heist story with a side of grifting. Smart, well-crafted characters keep the pages turning and readers looking for great bisexual representation will do well here, as Nora is bi and it plays a nice size role in the story. Likewise, Nora's girlfriend lives with endometriosis, and that, too, plays a clever role in the story, without downplaying how serious that reproductive challenge can be. I read this after The Project and think they'd make for some fun back-to-back reading, especially in exploring complicated and compelling sister relationships.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ellie Blackwood

    This book is a YA thriller about Nora, who’s running an errand to the bank with her ex-boyfriend and her new girlfriend. But the already-awkward trip becomes the WORST day ever when some bank robbers hold them hostage. Little do the robbers realize, though, that Nora knows all about cons, and she’s ready to outsmart them ... Y’all. The writing in this book GRABS you by the throat and does NOT let go! Tess Sharpe has such an immediate and compelling voice that I couldn’t stop turning the pages. No This book is a YA thriller about Nora, who’s running an errand to the bank with her ex-boyfriend and her new girlfriend. But the already-awkward trip becomes the WORST day ever when some bank robbers hold them hostage. Little do the robbers realize, though, that Nora knows all about cons, and she’s ready to outsmart them ... Y’all. The writing in this book GRABS you by the throat and does NOT let go! Tess Sharpe has such an immediate and compelling voice that I couldn’t stop turning the pages. Nora is a whip-smart main character who’s fully fascinating to read about. Books that jump between the past and the present tend to be a little hit-or-miss for me, but this one was DEFINITELY a hit, largely because of how good the writing is. In the chapters dealing with Nora’s backstory, I was completely gripped even though I knew Nora would survive in the end! So with a pace like that, is it any wonder that this book is getting a Netflix adaptation starring Millie Bobby Brown?? Yeah, that’s right — you have to read it now so you can say you were a fan before it was cool :)

  26. 4 out of 5

    sophia

    4.5 nora 😍 tw for sexual and physical abuse

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Perchikoff

    This is everything I didn't know I wanted from a book. Wow. Cons, a bank robbery, strong relationships, secrets revealed, and an abuse survivor fighting back. Fuck yes. Iris and Nora's relationship is goals and Iris, Nora, and Wes's friendship is AMAZING. The trust even after everything is beautiful. TW: physical child abuse (mentioned but not in detail but there is a scene where the aftermath of a beating is described. Not in detail but it's bit intense), sexual child abuse(alluded to but not de This is everything I didn't know I wanted from a book. Wow. Cons, a bank robbery, strong relationships, secrets revealed, and an abuse survivor fighting back. Fuck yes. Iris and Nora's relationship is goals and Iris, Nora, and Wes's friendship is AMAZING. The trust even after everything is beautiful. TW: physical child abuse (mentioned but not in detail but there is a scene where the aftermath of a beating is described. Not in detail but it's bit intense), sexual child abuse(alluded to but not described), emotional child abuse (pretty much in every flashback), guns, violence (during the bank robbery)

  28. 5 out of 5

    Aslee

    please be good please be good

  29. 4 out of 5

    Helen

    I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review – thanks as always to Netgalley for sending this to me! Check out my review on Youtube I’m sure we’re all familiar with the metaphor of the frog in the pot of boiling water. The idea being that if you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it’ll hop right out, but if you turn the water up slowly, the frog won’t notice it’s being cooked until it’s too late. Reading this book was like hopping into that saucepan of t I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review – thanks as always to Netgalley for sending this to me! Check out my review on Youtube I’m sure we’re all familiar with the metaphor of the frog in the pot of boiling water. The idea being that if you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it’ll hop right out, but if you turn the water up slowly, the frog won’t notice it’s being cooked until it’s too late. Reading this book was like hopping into that saucepan of tepid water, going ‘this is nice, isn’t it?’ and then someone jamming the lid on top and immediately turning it up to 200 degrees. I mean that in the best possible way. The Girls I’ve Been is a masterclass in tension. It keeps going throughout and never loses momentum. I think a lot of that is down to the fact that the book is told in a very short window of time, just a handful of hours in the same setting – but it manages to maintain that sense of tension during the dual timeline, even when we’re skipping back years into the past. It’s so much more difficult to keep that same level of intensity in a flashback scene, because we know that of course the main character has made it out to get to the present day, but the author does a fantastic job of keeping every scene simmering with tension as you bite your nails and frantically speed through to get back to the present day. The flashbacks have a different tone to the main story – more like a constant thread of unease, like the music that plays in a horror movie to put you on edge – but it’s just as powerful. That being said, I also appreciated that we did get a chance for a few gasps of air, quieter moments to build the relationship between Nora and Iris, as we get a few quick glimpses into the history of their relationship. These pauses were much-needed, just to recover, because this book is the definition of a rollercoaster and it never stops. I didn’t mean to devour 90% of it in one go, but it felt like I had no choice. This book was made to be read all in one nail-biting rush. I believe it’s being made into a movie starring Millie Bobby Brown, and I think it’s going to be a great one – it was built for that format, I think, with its constant action and quick changes between timelines and events. The story revolves, for the most part, around a tightly-knit group of characters. Obviously the main focus is Nora, her girlfriend Iris, and her ex, Wes. We’re supported by Nora’s mother and sister, and the mother in particular plays an integral role in the book. It’s a very focused story, which gives the characters a lot of time to shine and keeps things well-balanced. I will admit that I never got hugely attached to Wes – he seemed sweet, but didn’t leave much of an impression on me – and I never fully felt like I had got to grips with the older sister, Lee, but I was fascinated by the mother, and Nora’s girlfriend, Iris, is my new fave. Iris, who’d never been in a life-or-death situation in her life, who rose to the occasion, hoisted up her vintage skirts and got stuck into the action even while fighting debilitating period cramps caused by her endometritis. (That’s another detail I just loved, incidentally: the inclusion of period talk in YA. I feel like so many books just pretend periods aren’t a thing, so I loved that a) they’re mentioned, and b) Tess Sharpe acknowledged this condition and how agonising it can be, when so many sufferers are dismissed by doctors.) The villains, I felt, were a little less developed. Some of them aren’t even named, and it was a little hard to be intimidated by them at times when they had such distance from the narrative, but the situation itself was severe enough to make up for the reduced intimidation factor. I would have enjoyed if we’d connected to them a little more, but obviously there’s not enough time for everyone to share the spotlight, and when it comes down to it, the bad guys here take a back seat. They’re obstacles for Nora to tackle, and she does it so well. So much of YA is about coming of age and discovering who you are, and in this book we get to watch Nora do this on fast-forward, in real time. After trying on different identities like jackets throughout her childhood, Nora has been left a little lost, still trying to work out exactly who she really is outside of her mother’s depraved influence. Deprived of the luxury of time to figure herself out, she has to hit the accelerator and work it out fast – and she rises to the occasion beautifully. At the end of the day, the people in her way are a secondary concern. It’s been a while since I’ve read a Tess Sharpe book. One of her previous YA contemporaries, Far From You, has been lauded as a sapphic classic, and it’s a powerful read – but this book steps it up. In addition to the unusual structure, which incorporates lists and inventories that made it feel almost like a video game at times, there was a definite stylistic shift from the last Tess Sharpe I read. Her writing style has subtly altered, and now has a slightly literary quality that reminded me of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. If you like VE Schwab’s style and aesthetic, I think this one will work for you, especially if you’re drawn to characters like Lila Bard or Addie LaRue but are perhaps looking for a little more brutality with your badassery. Nora is a fighter, she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty, and I was totally here for it. Overall, The Girls I’ve Been is tense, pacey, and doesn’t pull any punches. It’s an awesome, addictive read and I’m definitely going to be recommending this one in future!

  30. 5 out of 5

    ashortbooklover

    TW: shooting, hostages, mention of car accident, blood, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual assault, child sexual abuse, fire The Girls I’ve Been has to be one of the best YA thrillers I’ve ever read and I’m pretty well-versed in the genre. This is an incredibly addictive and tense book that you will find it impossible to tear yourself away from. Sharpe’s writing is so arresting and engaging, right from that explosive start. From there the tension and stakes only rampant up, making it a clau TW: shooting, hostages, mention of car accident, blood, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual assault, child sexual abuse, fire The Girls I’ve Been has to be one of the best YA thrillers I’ve ever read and I’m pretty well-versed in the genre. This is an incredibly addictive and tense book that you will find it impossible to tear yourself away from. Sharpe’s writing is so arresting and engaging, right from that explosive start. From there the tension and stakes only rampant up, making it a claustrophobic and heart-racing read. I tore through the pages, wanting to know what would happen next. It’s so compactly plotted and is going to translate perfectly to the big screen. You never know quite where the story is going next, or indeed what Nora might do next. The twists, when they come, are perfectly executed and lead to some genuinely shocking moments. Under it all is the warped, twisted dynamic between Nora and her mum. This is a spine-tingling level of atrocity, particuarly as more is revealed, that truly demonstrates the lasting impact of emotional abuse and manipulation. Nora is little more than a particularly useful chess piece in her mother’s eyes, just another cog in the con. Nora herself is a fascinating main character. She’s determined to not be defined solely by her past, but she’s aware that certain actions will forever impact how she views the world. I really liked her moral grayness and how she valued survival above everything initially, but learnt to trust and love again. Abuse erodes all sense of that and Nora has grown up in a manipulative situation, where she was used as a commodity over and over again. Her relationship with Iris was so lovely to see and you could feel her desire to protect her from everything, while not underestimating her capability. All her relationships are complex, as they’re built on a web of secrets that’s so intricate yet precarious at every turn. Similarly with Wes, they form a trio that is tightly woven by a shared understanding of the darkness of the world, creating this wonderful found family dynamic. I really enjoyed Nora’s many past and present narratives were woven together, exploring the danger of the present but also the many forms of monsters in her past. This is fundamentally a story of Nora trying to establish her own identity and break free from the abusive controls she’s always grown up within. Trauma lingers and its effects ripple, affecting everything in its path. I thought Sharpe handled this topic extremely well, with a nuanced and sensitive exploration of trauma. The different girls Nora has been are kind of fragmented parts of herself, parts of a con taking on sentience, that she has to grapple with. Sharpe does not shy away from highlighting the darkness and evil that Nora encounters along the way. She really emphasises how monsters often hide behind charming, presentable faces. Finally, without giving anything away, that ending was just perfect for me. It didn’t offer a simplistic, neat ending, because there just wasn’t one. However, it did provide enough closure to what I considered to be the central conflict of the book. The story is left slightly open and ambiguous, but I really enjoyed it as it felt like the natural conclusion. The Girls I’ve Been is an early standout of the year for me, offering a gripping story that I know I’ll be rereading over and over again.

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