Title: Rebels Like Us
Author: Liz Reinhardt (twitter)
Publisher//Release Date: Harlequin Teen// February 28th, 2017
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Synopsis:“It’s not like I never thought about being mixed race. I guess it was just that, in Brooklyn, everyone was competing to be exotic or surprising. By comparison, I was boring, seriously. Really boring.”
Culture shock knocks city girl Agnes “Nes” Murphy-Pujols off-kilter when she’s transplanted mid–senior year from Brooklyn to a small Southern town after her mother’s relationship with a coworker self-destructs. On top of the move, Nes is nursing a broken heart and severe homesickness, so her plan is simple: keep her head down, graduate and get out. Too bad that flies out the window on day one, when she opens her smart mouth and pits herself against the school’s reigning belle and the principal.
Her rebellious streak attracts the attention of local golden boy Doyle Rahn, who teaches Nes the ropes at Ebenezer. As her friendship with Doyle sizzles into something more, Nes discovers the town she’s learning to like has an insidious undercurrent of racism. The color of her skin was never something she thought about in Brooklyn, but after a frightening traffic stop on an isolated road, Nes starts to see signs everywhere—including at her own high school where, she learns, they hold proms. Two of them. One black, one white.
Nes and Doyle band together with a ragtag team of classmates to plan an alternate prom. But when a lit cross is left burning in Nes’s yard, the alterna-prommers realize that bucking tradition comes at a price. Maybe, though, that makes taking a stand more important than anything.
Back when I was a shiny new high school graduate, I watched a documentary on HBO called Prom Night in Mississippi, all about a high school having its first integrated prom and all the issues and backlash and ramifications that came with it. Maybe it was my upbringing, maybe it was the area live in and the make up of my high school’s student body but it completely boggled my mind that, in 2009, segregation of any kind was still happening.
Fast forward 8 years and I hear about this book and I was immediately interested just because of the premise and I needed to get my hands on it ASAP. I will say that I mentally paused at the Seventeen label slapped on the book because, I’m WAY outside their demographic – but I ended up really enjoying the book and ended up passing it on to my mom, because screw the Seventeen label, this book is adorable.
Let’s break it down:
What I Liked:
- Story. There’s a lot of parts to this story and they fit together nicely and add a lot of depth. Nes’s physical and familial upheaval, general culture shock of being in The South and, of course, her relationship with Doyle and the bit about the prom. I actually really enjoyed the story about Nes and her mom and watching their relationship evolve over the course of the story and it might have been my favorite part of the story as a whole. The story also touches on racism and racial bias – there’s a couple of scenes that really, really stand out
- Characters. Nes and Doyle are very compelling characters. Nes is a great narrator – we have very similar senses of humor and I found myself giggling at her little asides and pop culture references. Doyle is like kind of the ultimate cross between southern gentleman and good ole’ boy and I adored him – and his crazy family.
- Romance. HOLY MOLY IT’S ADORABLE. They’re cute and flirty and sweet and steamy and basically all the things you want out of a teenaged romance.
What I Didn’t Like:
- Pacing. I don’t know if pacing was off or if it was just me, but the story started strong, but kind windy in the middle. A lot of time was spent with the teens doing random things that, I am assuming, teens in the South do and kind of rehashing Nes missing her BFF in Brooklyn and her ex and her anger with her mom, etc., etc. You get the picture. It picks up toward the end but the middle
- Secondary Characters. Kind of minor thing, but I feel like some of the secondary characters could have used a bit of a boost, like Jasper and Ainsley. Ainsley in particular needed a bit of depth. She came off as a bit of a stereotypical mean girl and, if you’re going to be the foil to the protagonist, you should probably have a bit of depth.
- Romance. This is probably going to sound insane, but I felt like there was too much romance. It felt like the entire first part of the book was exclusively about Nes and Doyle being flirty and cute and doing southern things like mudding and floating in rivers. It’s cute, but when the thing that attracted me most to the story doesn’t even get a mention until about halfway through, there might be a little too much on the romance. The romance is also very insta-lovey. SUPER insta-lovey actually. The entire plot takes place over a couple of months and, IMHO, they’re moving WAY too fast.
There’s one particular thing that I want to mention that happens at the end of the story that I thought was particularly realistic and well done, but it’s kind of a spoiler, and really, really minor.
tl;dr: Rebels Like Us is a cute and socially relevant story with a cute and easy to root for main couple, but one that spends a little too much time on romance for my liking.
That’s it for me this time? Have you read Rebels Like Us? What did you think?