The year is 1994 and alternative is in. But not for alternative girl Tabitha Denton; she hates her life. She is uninterested in boys, lonely, and sidelined by former friends at her suburban high school. When she picks up a zine at a punk concert, she finds an escape—an advertisement for a Riot Grrrl meet-up.
At the meeting, Tabitha finds girls who are more like her and a place to belong. But just as Tabitha is settling in with her new friends and beginning to think she understands herself, eighteen-year-old Jackie Hardwick walks into a meeting and changes her world forever. The out-and-proud Jackie is unlike anyone Tabitha has ever known. As her feelings for Jackie grow, Tabitha begins to learn more about herself and the racial injustices of the punk scene, but to be with Jackie, she must also come to grips with her own privilege and stand up for what’s right.
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This book was so good. As someone that grew up in the Riot Grrl era and watched some of those events and the bands as they shaped the world and watched as how feminism in that era had noble intentions but ultimately wasn’t up for the full breadth of challenge that lay before them, I adored this story. I loved the trip down memory lane with the music and “girl power” atmosphere of the story. Ms. Pack writes another lovely story with characters that are engaging.
Tabitha is the focus of the story and her journey to accepting herself. She struggled with her weight, how people viewed her, and how she viewed herself. My heart hurt with how she thought something was wrong with her. I adored watching her blossom over the course of the story as she became friends with the Riot Grrrls group and then Jackie. Seeing her explore her sexuality and accept it was wonderful. The way her mom accepted her was such a refreshing aspect of the story. I loved how happy she was by the end of the book.
I really enjoyed how there were issues of zines in between each chapter. It added a depth to the story and enhanced the story in a way that had me connecting more with the characters. I feel like Ms. Pack did a wonderful job portraying what it was like being a teen in that time. Tabitha’s emotions came through clearly, especially when she was being tormented by classmates. The other characters are wonderfully written. I enjoyed the other Riot Grrrls and would love to see them get their own stories. They were unique and such a great group of friends. Marty was a little much at times, but she represented so many of the gung ho young women of the early 90s. They all helped Tabitha in some way throughout the story.
I adored Tabitha and Jackie together. The way Jackie opened Tabitha’s eyes to how others live and struggle was amazing. You could see both of their feelings grow as they spend time together. They have a sweet happy for now ending that leaves you hopeful they’re going to make it long term. I so hope there’s a sequel coming. I really want to see more Tabitha and Jackie. Plus I want to see them succeed and have a lasting happy relationship.
Four and a half
I’m quite excited to have Tabitha join us today. She stops by to talk about friends. The qualities she looks for in a friend are things most would want from friends as well. Read and enjoy!
What I love about my friends is they don’t judge me. Okay, maybe they do judge me sometimes, but not about the stuff that counts. I never feel like they’d stop talking to me because of what I look like or who I choose to love. They like me for me, and I don’t feel like I have to prove anything to them. There aren’t conditions on our friendship.
It’s not like my friendship with Heather Davidson. We used to be best friends but when she got to high school she changed—started hanging out with the “cool” kids and dressing differently. Of course, that wasn’t what ended our friendship. I would never stop talking to someone over something so petty. No, we stayed friends until she started calling me names in front of her new friends and making fun of my weight. My new friends would never do that.
I like that we look out for each other, even though we don’t always get along. Even when Marty and Venus are arguing or Cherie and Kate want to give me a makeover that I don’t want, we’re still there for each other.
And then there’s Jackie. She always seems to know when I’m sad. Sometimes before I even realize it. And she always knows what to say (or not to say) to make me feel better. I’m trying to get to know her better because I want to return the favor. She seems like she needs people who support her unconditionally. Hell, we all do I guess. But with Jackie, it’s deeper. I don’t know, I guess it’s like she’s lonely. Like really and truly lonely. It’s not the kind of loneliness you feel on a Saturday night when you’re home alone with nothing to do. This goes deeper.
It’s not fair that she’s lonely. Jackie’s the kind of person who deserves full-on, sunshine-and-daisies happiness. Maybe I can be the kind of friend she needs. I think I’m going to call her later and see what she’s up to.
The club is dirty and small, and I have to stand on my tiptoes to see the stage, but I don’t care because these are my people: the hardscrabble freaks and losers who are angry at the world for their lot in life. Dramatic? Sure. But no one here looks at me like I’m some sort of zoo animal. An elephant with too much hair. A rhinoceros missing her horn. Here I am just a girl with cool boots, who maybe looks like she could kick your ass.
Mike seems in his element, too, and taller somehow, protective almost. When a guy with a safety pin through his left eyebrow bumps into me during the opening act, Mike shoves him back. At first I think we’ve won, but Eyebrow Piercing continues to thrash. I step to the side and let him go crazy. Who cares? This band is shit anyway. Mike lifts his brow as if to say, “Want me to kick his ass?” But I shake my head. No point in getting kicked out before the good bands start. We make our way to the other side of the venue where I can see the stage a little better.
We stand there for a while, taking in the scene. The opening band continues to suck. I’m not even sure the bass player’s amp is on. Their sound is top-heavy, like a car stereo with the speakers blown out. Mike nods in the direction of the merch tables. Looks like all the bands are selling CDs and a couple of girls are handing out flyers. We sidestep the thrashing masses to get a better look. I pass up the CDs; I don’t get my allowance until Monday, and I already blew my savings on the boots. A girl about my age catches my eye and smiles. Her brown hair is barely past shoulder length and much shinier than mine. Bright pink barrettes frame her pale face near her forehead. It should make her look childish, but instead she looks cool. I smile back.
“Hey, you interested in doing some shit?” she asks. Her pale green eyes sparkle with determination.
“About all the bullshit in the world that girls have to put up with.”
Thinking she’s joking, I laugh. “That’s ambitious.”
“Just because we’re girls doesn’t mean we can’t change things. Here.” She hands me the flyer I’d noticed her passing out. “We meet on Tuesdays.”
Never one for following the “rules,” Carrie Pack is a published author of books in multiple genres, including Designs on You, In the Present Tense and the forthcoming Grrrls on the Side (2017). Her novels focus on characters finding themselves in their own time—something she experienced for herself when she came out as bisexual recently. She’s passionate about positive representation in her writing and has been a feminist before she knew what the word meant, thanks to a progressive and civic-minded grandmother. Coincidentally that’s also where she got her love of red lipstick and desserts. Carrie lives in Florida, or as she likes to call it, “America’s Wang.”
Connect with Carrie Pack at carriepack.com, on Twitter @carriepack, and on Facebook at facebook.com/mscarriepack.
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Thanks so much for having me and for reviewing!