Nora (17) (not her real name) was rescued from her con-artist mother five years ago by her older half-sister, Lee. Nora was part of each con her mother planned and carried out. She was Rebecca, Samantha, Haley, Katie, and Ashley. Being each one taught her things that she will soon need. Five years of living with her sister, going to therapy, going to school, her boyfriend Wes, who is now her ex-boyfriend, may have taken some of her edge off, or not.
Nora, Wes, and Nora’s new love Iris (Nora is bisexual) meet at the bank to deposit the money their fund-raiser collected. Once in the bank they find themselves in the middle of a bank robbery, and things are not going well. There are two robbers, one the brains and the other is always quick to panic. Nora will need all of her skills to keep everyone safe: her friends, the teller, the guard, and a girl who was waiting for her father.
Each chapter heading notes the time, how long they have been captive, and what “weapons” they have. Some gruesome things happen, both in the past and in the present. Nora, Wes, and Iris were each abused as children and this situation brings out some of that. They each have found a way to survive and heal.
Tension is strong throughout the book. Nora maintains her cool and manipulates the robbers when she can. When one tactic doesn’t work, she changes to another. It is clear that everyone is in danger. She exudes confidence, but inside she knows everything can quickly go wrong.
Flashbacks occur regularly, filling the reader in on what Nora did with her mother, as she was each of the girls her mother created for her. These pages are slightly gray to stand out from the rest of the book.
This book will pull you in and not let go. It has continued to be on my mind since I read it earlier this month. It received a starred review from Booklist and Kirkus. It is written for grades 9 and up, and new adults might also pick it up off the shelf.
Sharpe, Tess. The Girls I’ve Been. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, 2021.