Girls Like Us

Overview

With gentle humor and unflinching realism, Gail Giles tells the gritty, ultimately hopeful story of two special ed teenagers entering the adult world.

We understand stuff. We just learn it slow. And most of what we understand is that people what ain’t Speddies think we too stupid to get out our own way. And that makes me mad.

Quincy and Biddy are both graduates of their high school’s special ed program, but they couldn’t be more different: ...

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Girls Like Us

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Overview

With gentle humor and unflinching realism, Gail Giles tells the gritty, ultimately hopeful story of two special ed teenagers entering the adult world.

We understand stuff. We just learn it slow. And most of what we understand is that people what ain’t Speddies think we too stupid to get out our own way. And that makes me mad.

Quincy and Biddy are both graduates of their high school’s special ed program, but they couldn’t be more different: suspicious Quincy faces the world with her fists up, while gentle Biddy is frightened to step outside her front door. When they’re thrown together as roommates in their first "real world" apartment, it initially seems to be an uneasy fit. But as Biddy’s past resurfaces and Quincy faces a harrowing experience that no one should have to go through alone, the two of them realize that they might have more in common than they thought — and more important, that they might be able to help each other move forward.

Hard-hitting and compassionate, Girls Like Us is a story about growing up in a world that can be cruel, and finding the strength — and the support — to carry on.

Longlisted for the 2014 National Book Award for Young People's Literature

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 03/10/2014
Following graduation from their high school’s special education track, two girls become wards of the state and are placed in an apartment where they live independently and cook and clean for their neighbor/employer, an older woman named Elizabeth. Sharp-tongued and aggressive, Quincy is defensive about her learning difficulties and the physical scars left by the source of her brain damage, “when my mama’s boyfriend hit my head with a brick.” Sensitive Biddy, who describes herself as having “moderate retardation,” overeats to mask past traumas, which include having given up her baby. Giles’s (Dark Song) background teaching special education students informs this blunt, honest, and absorbing story about two young women overcoming challenges that have less to do with their abilities to read or write than with how society views and treats them. In short, alternating chapters, the girls narrate in raw and distinct voices that capture their day-to-day hurdles, agony, and triumphs. The “found family” that builds slowly for Quincy, Biddy, and Elizabeth—with no shortage of misunderstandings, mistrust, or tears—is rewarding and powerful. Ages 14–up. Agent: Scott Treimel, Scott Treimel NY. (June)
From the Publisher
In compelling, engaging, and raw voices, 18-year-olds Biddy and Quincy, newly independent, intellectually disabled high-school graduates, narrate their growing friendship and uneasy transition into a life of jobs, "real world" apartments, and facing cruel prejudice. ... Biddy and Quincy share deep secrets and narrate lives heartrendingly full of anger, abandonment, and abuse... But with the help of patient Elizabeth and the support they gain from each other, they are empowered to move forward with strength and independence. Giles offers a sensitive and affecting story of two young women learning to thrive in spite of their hard circumstances.
—Booklist (starred review)

Giles’s background teaching special education students informs this blunt, honest, and absorbing story about two young women overcoming challenges that have less to do with their abilities to read or write than with how society views and treats them. In short, alternating chapters, the girls narrate in raw and distinct voices that capture their day-to-day hurdles, agony, and triumphs. The "found family" that builds slowly for Quincy, Biddy, and Elizabeth—with no shortage of misunderstandings, mistrust, or tears—is rewarding and powerful.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Girls Like Us is filled with genuine relationships that develop over time and feel authentic. There is humor and heart throughout, making the severity of the protagonists’ situations more accessible to readers. ... Giles has constructed a unique, hard-hitting yet refreshing story with well-developed characters free from expected clichés or caricatures. A powerful novel that teens will enjoy wholeheartedly.
—School Library Journal (starred review)

The story is told with both gentleness and a humor that laughs with, not at, the two girls. ... [T]he warmth, conflict and mutual caring that develop among Quincy, Biddy and elderly Miss Lizzy is authentic and genuinely moving. A respectful and winningly told story about people too often relegated to the role of plot device—bravo.
—Kirkus Reviews

The book gives memorable voice to underrepresented young women.
—The Horn Book

Girls Like Us is a quick, enjoyable read that is hard to put down. The author draws readers in with deep, meaningful characters who play on sympathies. ... The book is well written, with believable scenarios and dialogue most readers will enjoy. Girls Like Us will remain with readers long after they finish this story.
—VOYA

Often humorous, this story is realistically fashioned to portray the lives of two young girls whose stories usually go unmentioned, yet are both encouraging and triumphant.
—Library Media Connection

The brief chapters allow plenty of time for thought on the part of the readers as they’re steeped into the daily challenges and thoughts of differently abled people. ... Intellectually disabled young people don’t receive a lot of attention in literature... especially when it comes to the difficult transition to adult living; readers with their own launch concerns may find this particularly rewarding.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

In the market for a new favorite writer? Gail Giles just might fit the bill. This novel, written in short, alternating chapters in the voices of two special-ed teens, is an absolute stunner. ... This novel has the feeling of an instant classic, from its impeccable use of language to its stirring message.
—Philly.com

This highly readable story is a welcome addition to a growing literature about teens with mental and physical challenges.
—BookPage

Never have I read so deep, evocative, and hard-hitting of a statement (on so many topics nonetheless) as GIRLS LIKE US. This book may be smaller and on the shorter side, but don’t be fooled. I can guarantee you will be crying and/or feeling quite moved by the last page. ... GIRLS LIKE US will break your heart, but you will be glad for it, because you will learn an invaluable lesson, and ultimately, the breaking will feel more like an uplifting breath of air.
—TeenReads.com

Children's Literature - Barbara L. Talcroft
In this dark and edgy novel Biddy and Quincy, who speak in short, alternating chapters, are “special ed” students in southern Texas. They have graduated at eighteen and are being settled into a small garage apartment offered, in return for help, by an older woman named Elizabeth. Biddy, classified with “moderate retardation,” is pretty, quite overweight, and unable to read or write. She s delighted to be in a sheltered place, but her roommate—angry, independent Quincy—is impatient with her lot. Both are wary of men. Readers learn that Biddy has had a baby she was forced to give up (this thread of the story may be superfluous). Quincy is facially deformed and slightly brain-damaged since her mother’s boyfriend hit her with a brick. It takes a while to absorb all this; teens may wonder why they should care. But as the two girls tell their stories and begin to help each other—Biddy cannot cook, so Quincy does that as well as working in a grocery, while Biddy is a demon cleaner—their lives, related in distinctive voices, become compelling. Pages turn quickly as readers learn what happened to Biddy and experience Quincy’s pain in a horrifying assault. While they grow stronger by supporting each other, these courageous young women still suffer from others’ preconceived ideas of their emotions and capabilities, even on the part of their well-meaning benefactor Elizabeth. Giles has drawn on stories shared by her special education students. The moving novel ends on a quiet note of triumph with a look to the future and, for readers, a deeper understanding of human potential. Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft; Ages 13 up.
VOYA, June 2014 (Vol. 37, No. 2) - Juli Henley
Girls Like Us is a quick, enjoyable read that is hard to put down. The author draws readers in with deep, meaningful characters who play on sympathies. Biddy is a scared, yet very likable, character in her innocent approach to life. From her grandmother’s verbal and physical cruelty, Biddy has learned to physically hide her true self and sees far more clearly than the average person. Quincy is as tough as Biddy is gentle. Quincy has built herself up to be tough and feel nothing, so when Biddy becomes her roommate, they complement each other in ways they did not know they needed. The book is well written, with believable scenarios and dialogue most readers will enjoy. Girls Like Us will remain with readers long after they finish this story. The entire framework is well developed and thought provoking, which may lead readers into meaningful discussions. This novel would be great for a middle school reading group. Biddy and Quincy will weave themselves into readers’ hearts and make them think twice about any preconceived ideas about kids in special ed. Reviewer: Juli Henley; Ages 11 to 18.
School Library Journal
★ 06/01/2014
Gr 8 Up—Quincy and Biddie are "speddies" (special education students). They have just graduated high school and must live out in the world on their own. After being matched together by their teacher, they are given adult responsibilities: Quincy works at a supermarket while Biddie cooks and cleans for the older woman who is boarding them. The teens must learn how to fend for themselves in a world that is unfamiliar. They have both experienced physical, mental, and sexual violence, and must rely on each other to come out stronger than they were before. Girls Like Us is filled with genuine relationships that develop over time and feel authentic. There is humor and heart throughout, making the severity of the protagonists' situations more accessible to readers. A story line about Biddie's obsession with a family of ducks in their backyard is particularly poignant. The one- or two-page chapters alternate between Quincy and Biddie and are told in voices that are genuine to their experiences but never sensationalized. The frank discussions and depictions of the violence committed against them are shocking but never vulgar. Giles has constructed a unique, hard-hitting yet refreshing story with well-developed characters free from expected clichés or caricatures. A powerful novel that teens will enjoy wholeheartedly.—Christopher Lassen, Brooklyn Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
2014-03-31
Two "Speddies"—special ed students—graduate high school and move in with a kind but sometimes misguided older woman. At first, prickly Quincy, who is mixed-race, and fearful but kind Biddy, who is white, seem to have little in common besides their special ed designation. After they finish high school, the two girls are placed in a living situation together. Biddy has a job cooking and cleaning for the elderly woman in whose home they are staying, and Quincy will work at a grocery store. The girls narrate alternate chapters, a page or two long each and related in readable but distinct dialect. The story is told with both gentleness and a humor that laughs with, not at, the two girls. (Quincy's recurring joke about Biddy catching "the duck rabies" from a family of ducks she's started feeding is particularly charming.) Sexual, institutional and family violence against both Quincy and Biddy are treated frankly, with realistic but not sensational detail. One plot point involving the daughter who was taken from Biddy years earlier feels contrived, but otherwise, the warmth, conflict and mutual caring that develop among Quincy, Biddy and elderly Miss Lizzy are authentic and genuinely moving. A respectful and winningly told story about people too often relegated to the role of plot device—bravo. (Fiction. 12-18)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763662677
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 5/27/2014
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 95,968
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: HL570L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.90 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Gail Giles is the author of several books for young adults, including Shattering Glass, What Happened to Cass McBride?, and Right Behind You. She lives near Houston, Texas.
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