Title: Rebels Like Us
Author: Liz Reinhardt
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Date published: February 28, 2017
Page Count: 496
A physical copy of the book was kindly provided by the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: 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.
– MY REVIEW –
I remember my first reaction to this book (before I held it in my hands) being that the story sounded very relevant and intriguing, and that I really liked the cover. I’d also never read a book with a bi-racial main character before, which was surprising and shameful for me. When the book arrived in the mail, I remember feeling very excited, as well as intimidated by the size of it! It is nearly 500 pages long! I’d never encountered a contemporary YA book which was that long before, and I really hoped that the story would hold my attention all the way through.
But, I had nothing to worry about. In fact, I now wish that the book had been longer, because I was not ready to say goodbye when it ended. Overall, this was a strange experience for me, because I do not read a lot of contemporary YA, at all, and when I do, I usually find that I’m just not challenged or entertained enough.
I found Agnes (Nes) to be likeable from the start though, even though she’s quite a bit younger than I am. See, I believe that one of the reasons why I prefer fantasy and sci-fi YA to contemporary is that most of the time, even if the main characters are in their mid-teens, they feel less-young to me somehow. In YA contemporary, there’s usually the reminder that the characters are in high school, or on summer or spring break, etc. I was not a fan of high school, so I don’t like to read about it (so that’s maybe another reason too).
But anyway, this was not an issue for me while reading Rebels Like Us! I was actually interested in what would happen to Nes’ social life at school and in the town she moved to. I also cared about her close relationships with other characters, because I cared for her. All characters were multi-layered and realistic, and simply a joy to read about (in good situations, and bad ones). And I distinctly enjoyed Nes’ relationship with Doyle. Nes and Doyle are both very complex characters, and their interactions were therefore just as complex.
This novel also dealt with a number of very current and relevant issues regarding race in the U.S.A. I felt the same shock and outraged which Nes felt when she found out about the segregated proms in the town she’d moved to from NYC. I think that the “keep the traditions and the old ways” form of thinking of the town Nes moved to is reflective of a lot of real towns, and this is something which needs to change. This book pointed out, quite effectively, just how ridiculous racism is (any time, and especially now in the 21st century).
Reinhardt shared all of this with us with the use of her lovely writing (even lyrical at times), portraying emotional moments, horrifying ones, ones filled with love, and even scenes or commentaries from Nes which made me burst out laughing. As I am not bi-racial, and am 100% Romanian (as far as I know), I cannot vouch as to whether Nes’ experiences as a person of colour are accurate. But I can say that due to having lived in Austria as a labeled “outlander” for nearly a decade, and being judged and segregated for this thing I had no control over, that some of Nes’ experiences felt a little familiar, as well as painful for every part of my heart and soul.
I highly recommend this book to those who would like to read a romance with writing which is engaging, funny, passionate, and which also tackles many of the issues faced by North American society today. This has definitely been one of my favourite reads of 2017 thus far!
– PLAYLIST –
This playlist was not made by me, and I found it by looking up playlists listed under “summer.” I found the music so fitting while I read this book though, and the girl in the cover image has hair almost like Nes’!!! What are the chances?!
– ABOUT THE AUTHOR –
Liz Reinhardt is a perpetually homesick NJ native who migrated to the deep South a decade ago with her funny kid, motor-head husband, and growing pack of mutts. She’s a fanatical book lover with no reading prejudices and a wide range of genre loves, but her heart will always skip a beat for YA. In her spare time she likes to listen to corny jokes her kid reads to her from ice-pop sticks, watch her husband get dirty working on cars, travel whenever she can scrape together a few bucks, and gab on the phone incessantly with her bestie, writer Steph Campbell. She likes Raisinets even if they aren’t real candy, the Oxford comma even though it’s nerdy, and airports even when her plane is delayed. When she isn’t writing, Liz Reinhardt teaches a fantastic group of diverse 8th graders in Savannah, GA. Rebels Like Us, her latest YA novel, is full of hot kisses, angst, homesickness, and laughs that are almost as good as the ones that come from the stick of a melty ice-pop.
– PURCHASE LINKS –
THANK YOU FOR READING MY REVIEW! HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK? WHAT DID YOU THINK? AND IF YOU HAVEN’T READ IT YET, DO YOU WANT TO, OR NOT? HOW COME? LET ME KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!