Review: Rebel Girls by Elizabeth Keenan

Title: Rebel Girls by Elizabeth Keenan
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Genre: Historical (’90s), Young Adult, Novel
Length: 432 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


“Echoing the punk-rock feminist movement of the early ’90s, debut author Keenan creates a timely narrative that will challenge teens to reflect on their personal values and engage in respectful discourse. A must-read.” –Kirkus, starred review

When it comes to being social, Athena Graves is far more comfortable creating a mixtape playlist than she is talking to cute boys—or anyone, for that matter. Plus her staunchly feminist views and love of punk rock aren’t exactly mainstream at St. Ann’s, her conservative Catholic high school.

Then a malicious rumor starts spreading through the halls…a rumor that her popular, pretty, pro-life sister had an abortion over the summer. A rumor that has the power to not only hurt Helen, but possibly see her expelled.

Despite their wildly contrasting views, Athena, Helen, and their friends must find a way to convince the student body and the administration that it doesn’t matter what Helen did or didn’t do…even if their riot grrrl protests result in the expulsion of their entire rebel girl gang.


Set in 1992, Rebel Girls by Elizabeth Keenan is a thought-provoking young adult novel with a topical, meaningful storyline.

Athena Graves is not like her fellow Catholic School peers. She is a pro-choice feminist and would-be riot grrrl. Her best friend Melissa Lemoine shares many of her viewpoints and in fact, she spent part of her summer working to protect patients at a local abortion clinic. School is now back in session and Athena’s pro-life beautiful fourteen year old sister Helen is beginning her freshman year. Athena is crushing on new student, Kyle Buchanan, but she is soon distracted when mean-girl Leah Sullivan and her sidekick Aimee stir up trouble by spreading vicious rumors about Helen. Although the sisters are on opposite sides on abortion, they team up with Melissa and Helen’s best friends Sara and Jennifer to prevent Helen from being expelled from school.

Athena tries to fly under the radar as she navigates the tricky high school waters. She is not part of the “in crowd” despite her lifelong friendship with popular football player Sean Mitchell. Athena has also managed to avoid becoming a target of Sean’s girlfriend Leah and she is wary of doing anything to cross her. She works hard to live up to the riot grrrl movement as she tries to be supportive of other girls. But will Athena be able to continue taking the high road when she discovers what Leah is doing to Helen?

Helen could not be more different than Athena. She is popular and well-liked with aspirations of becoming a model. The sisters are not close, so initially, Helen does not tell Athena about the rumors Leah is spreading about her. But once Athena learns the truth, will Helen accept her help in salvaging her reputation?

Athena, Helen, Melissa and Jennifer must figure out how to get justice without flouting any of the school rules. Their campaign is clever and although their success is limited at first, a vindictive incident aids their cause. Athena finds herself in the crosshairs of their guidance counselor (!) and she is faced with an almost untenable choice as their plan is reaching its denouement.

Rebel Girls is a wonderful young adult novel that offers an uplifting and positive portrayal of young women’s friendships and tackles both sides of the abortion issue.  The characters are diverse and most of them are three-dimensional and multi-faceted. The exceptions are Leah and Aimee who are  rather one dimensional since they are stereotypical mean girls. The storyline is engaging and well-researched with the time period springing vibrantly to life. Elizabeth Keenan brings this heartwarming novel to a satisfying and realistic conclusion.  I highly recommend this outstanding young adult novel to older teen and adult readers.

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Filed under Elizabeth Keenan, Historical, Historical (90s), Inkyard Press, Rated B+, Rebel Girls, Review, Young Adult

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