Grrrls on the side, by Carrie Pack

I was a little hesitant going into this book. While I was certain I’d find the sapphic romance and the punk setting enjoyable, I was afraid it would once again be a book whose feminism only concerns and centers on white, thin, middle class women. I couldn’t have fallen further from the truth. Not only was our protagonist fat, not only was the romance interracial, white privilege was called out on multiple occassions, establishing this book as one far better than I expected and one I believe everyone should read.

Our story begins when 16-year-old Tabitha attends a punk concert with her friend, Mike. There, she picks up a zine and ends up going to a Riot Grrrl meet-up. There she meets Jackie, a black lesbian, who changes Tabitha’s world forever. She is not just her first love. She becomes a person that makes her question her life, her privilege, everything she thought she knew about the punk-rock scene. And as their relationship develops, so does the group that’s been formed within the club, and the girls find themselves in situations they never thought of.

Tabitha was a delight to read about. She is shy, she is quiet, with a very strong moral compass, a girl who discovers her identity and learns to stand up for herself. She is also one of the very few protagonists that proudly calls herself bisexual, and I can not stress this enough: honest and authentic representation is so good and so beneficial for everyone involved. This is also an #ownvoices book, since the author is bisexual herself, which is why the rep in this book felt so authentic and was so well-written.

Even though I absolutely loved Tabitha I have to admit that my favourite characters were Jackie and Cherie. Jackie isn’t just a lesbian. She is a butch lesbian!!! In literature!! I was so ecstatic to see this represented in a YA book. The fact that she and Venus kept calling out the other girls on their privilege and challenge their perceptions of black people was something I did not expect to see; alas, I stand corrected. Carrie Pack gave me everything that I could have wished for and then some. In my opinion, if the book had some trans characters as well, it would have been the most inclusive, one of the most diverse books I’ve ever read.

Now, back to Cherie: I loved her. I loved how she was such a great friend, always kind and polite, the voice of reason within the group. She was someone I could see myself being friends with in real life and she really added a lot to the book for me.

The punk-rock setting was epic. I adore punk music and I adore the 90s (musically speaking). And seeing a girl-group rocking the punk scene and using their lyrics and their musical presence to get their points across and try to “educate” people was something I never thought I’d see in a book. As you can probably tell, this book has surprised me many, many times and in many different ways. The biggest surprise, however, was the romance. The bisexual character was not oversexualized!!!! The black woman was neither oversexualized nor desexualized!! These are such rarities in the YA world, I couldn’t believe I got to see both in the same book. Thank you, Carrie Pack!

I think it’s safe to say that it was a great start to my #PrideMonthReadathon and one that set the bar extremely high. I also need to add that the zines the girls make are included in the book and they are so cute, and such a fun addition to an already great book.

**An ARC was provided via Netgalley in exchange of an honest review**

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