Rebels Like Us
By: Liz Reinhardt
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.
I received Rebels Like Us in ARC form from a Giveaway on Goodreads. This book is released on February 28th, 2017.
Rebels Like Us by Liz Reinhardt is a contemporary book that tackles big issues such as racism in a Southern town. Our protagonist is a mixed-race teenager named Agnes Murphy-Pujols. Her mother is Irish and her father is Dominican, and they’re recently divorced. After an incident taken place in her hometown of Brooklyn, New York, Agnes and her mother move to middle-of-nowhere Georgia. It’s difficult for Agnes to get used to the Southern life, and the constant stares at the sight of her skin, but a boy named Doyle keeps her on her feet, navigating her through everyday life in this new, alien place.
“Sartre said hell is other people, but he obviously never experienced a winter heat in the Georgia Lowcountry.”
This book begins with our protagonist complaining about her recent, and sudden move to Georgia from the hustle-and-bustle of New York. Right from the start I didn’t like our protagonist. She was arrogant, rude, and spoiled. She was always angry at her mother and was always thinking about how her life sucks, how nothing in life is fair. Not only that, but there are so many cliches in this book, such as the spoiled rich mean girl, who just so happens to be the ex of the protagonist’s crush. I found myself rolling my eyes at this, but at least the book was self-aware of it’s cliches.
“I don’t want to believe some police officer saw the color of my skin and took it upon himself to judge me a criminal.”
One thing I wasn’t expecting from this book was the aspect of racism in this book. It didn’t even cross my mind that it would be a topic of discussion in this novel, even though the protagonist is half-Dominican. This was a surprise for me, and it definitely made the book more interesting and meaningful than I originally thought it was going to be when I started it. I didn’t really read the blurb on the back of the book when I started it so everything in the book was a surprise. The segregated prom, the racism, all of that was new to me.
Not only is our protagonist a person of color, but her best friend is Vietnamese. There is a lot of great racial representation in this book, as well as cross-racial characters. It’s fresh, new, and a great addition to the much-needed diversity in Young Adult literature.
“I don’t pretend friendships between such different people would be completely smooth, but listening to them talk about food and sports and politics, and find common ground or civil tolerance reminds me that the point isn’t to glide through life without causing a stir. It’s to fight for what’s right for yourself and the person you think you have nothing in common with – because chances are, under your accent and skin color and general world view, you’re just two people…”
Despite the obvious cliches and the romance (which was pretty insta-lovey, but overall it had a nice pace), I really enjoyed this book and I think it’s an important book to read. If your reading goal is to read more diversely, this book should definitely be added to your list. It’s funny, charming, and deals with big topics for a contemporary book. The relationships are strong and developed well, and the characters are three dimensional and make mistakes just like the rest of us. I’m glad I was able to get an ARC of this book and read it before everyone else because it’s a truly beautiful book that I wouldn’t mind revisiting in the future.
- Character development
- Strong relationships
- Strong main character
- Positive messages
- Great writing
- Too many metaphors and similes
Although there were a few things that annoyed me, and it took me about half the novel to really get into the story, I enjoyed this book. I think it’s a solid contemporary novel with a healthy dose of romance and angst that was handled well. I can’t wait to see what other novels Liz Reinhardt comes out with because I do want more stories like this in the future.