Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Monday, October 6, 2014

Plot Summary:
Life for Quincy and Biddy has not been kind. According to Quincy, she used to be smart until her mother's boyfriend hit the side of her head with a brick and that is why she is a Speddie (Special Ed student). Despite being "slow," Quincy is quick on her feet and keeps her guard up because she won't let anyone hurt her again, nor will she allow anyone keep her from achieving her dreams. As for Biddy, she is "moderately retarded" due to a lack of oxygen to the brain and abandoned by her mother. Although she was raised by her grandmother, Biddy has never known kindness, or been loved, and constantly picked on by other people because she is heavy and "slow." The only thing in common that Biddy and Quincy have is that they are in the same life skills class, but, now that they have graduated, they are part of  new program that will make them roommates because they are no longer in foster care. For Quincy, she sees Biddy as a silly fool and treats her that way. However, as Quincy gets to know Biddy, she learns that Biddy has been through a whole lot worse, including the fact that Biddy had a baby she was forced to give away. With a new home, and new life with Miss Lizzy, Quincy and Biddy are off to a rocky start. However, all of that changes when Quincy finally understands what it's like to be Biddy and decides to let her guard down in order to heal. For Biddy, she finally hones her abilities to love unconditionally that it forces her to overcome her fears in order to protect those she loves. In this emotional roller coaster, readers will learn the horrors of reality where two girls must stick together in order to success and survive.

Critical Evaluation:
Gail Giles is a phenomenal writer and I was truly moved by this story. Although the language and the dialogue she uses can be somewhat confusing for some readers, it will come to them organically as they progress through the story. Both Quincy and Biddy have intellectual disabilities due to two very different situations: Quincy suffered a head injury and Biddy was born with moderate retardation. However, both girls have very distinct personalities where Quincy is always angry and Biddy is always fearful. Although tragedy is what brings these two girls together, they are able to heal and overcome their fears by relying on each other. With that said, I will warn readers now that rape is described and discussed, but it needs to be addressed because thousands of young girls (with or without disabilities) are assaulted every year. What makes this act even more disgusting is that them boys who did this to Biddy and Quincy knew they were incapable of defending themselves and easy to intimidate. This is not acceptable, especially when it comes to people with disabilities. Giles story is an honest depictions about girls who are forced to face the world alone and its heart breaking. Despite the ugliness that surrounds these girls, there quite a few beautiful moment makes them shines hope for Biddy and Quincy. I just love the fact that Quincy can cook Because, of all things, this is one act that don't require using her fists or sharp tongue. For Biddy, her knack for cleaning goes very deep , psychologically, but it helps her cope with her issues, but her maternal instinct is what makes her the perfect companion for Quincy. I was absolutely devastated when I heard Biddy's story, but she as the only who could Quincy in her time of need. Although Quincy doesn't, initially, tell Lizzy about her assault, she gathers all her strength and courage to tell her and they report the assault to the police who, contrary to what Biddy and Quincy think, they actually took this report seriously. this story has such phenomenal character development because Biddy is actually able to walk outside without her coat and Quincy finally lets people help and love her. So much happens in this tiny book and its mind blowing!!! Be sure to have a box of tissues at your side and be prepared to have one hell of a conversation with your friends, mentors, and family members.

Information about the Author:
According to her blog:
Born in Galveston, Texas, raised in LaMarque, Texas, went to school in Nacogdoches, Texas, lived for years in Lake Jackson, Texas, taught high school in Angleton, Texas. Is anyone picking up a pattern here? After three fabulous in Chicago, Illinois, I moved to Fairbanks and then Anchorage, Alaska, and yes, it was COLD! As of August, 2004, I'm back in Texas, Yee Haw!
[I am married to] Jim Giles—husband, best friend, love of my life. Josh Jakubik—son and hero. Hunter and Chase Jakubik—grandsons. Dawn Jakubik—terrific daughter in law.

Teens with Disabilities, Teen Issues, Teen Contemporary Fiction

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 10 & up

Books Similar to Girls Like Us:
  • Stuck in Neutral by Terrie Trueman
  • The Silent Boy by Lois Lowry

Awards & Recognition:

In compelling, engaging, and raw voices, 18-year-olds Biddy and Quincy, newly independent, intellectually disabled high-school graduates, narrate their growing friendship and uneasy transition into a life of jobs, "real world" apartments, and facing cruel prejudice. ... Biddy and Quincy share deep secrets and narrate lives heartrendingly full of anger, abandonment, and abuse... But with the help of patient Elizabeth and the support they gain from each other, they are empowered to move forward with strength and independence. Giles offers a sensitive and affecting story of two young women learning to thrive in spite of their hard circumstances.
—Booklist (starred review)

Giles’s background teaching special education students informs this blunt, honest, and absorbing story about two young women overcoming challenges that have less to do with their abilities to read or write than with how society views and treats them. In short, alternating chapters, the girls narrate in raw and distinct voices that capture their day-to-day hurdles, agony, and triumphs. The "found family" that builds slowly for Quincy, Biddy, and Elizabeth—with no shortage of misunderstandings, mistrust, or tears—is rewarding and powerful.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

The story is told with both gentleness and a humor that laughs with, not at, the two girls. ... [T]he warmth, conflict and mutual caring that develop among Quincy, Biddy and elderly Miss Lizzy is authentic and genuinely moving. A respectful and winningly told story about people too often relegated to the role of plot device—bravo.
—Kirkus Reviews

The book gives memorable voice to underrepresented young women.
—The Horn Book

Girls Like Us is a quick, enjoyable read that is hard to put down. The author draws readers in with deep, meaningful characters who play on sympathies. ... The book is well written, with believable scenarios and dialogue most readers will enjoy. Girls Like Us will remain with readers long after they finish this story.

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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