Girls Like Us won the Schneider Family Book Award*for teen readers in 2015. The book was good, though I was a bit disappointed about how easily all the characters meshed and the pieces fell into place in the middle of the book.
The language used in Girls Like Us is not complicated, since it is told from the perspective of two young women with intellectual disabilities. As the sensational statistics splashed across the news report, approximately 1 out of every 6 women has been the victim of an attempted or completed sexual assault, and as many as 83% of women who are developmentally disabled are the victims of sexual assault. I applaud Gail Giles for tackling the subject in Girls Like Us. So, while a middle grade reader would easily be able to follow the story line, the subject matter, makes Girls Like Us unsuited to middle grade and younger teen readers.
I also found the dialect and poor grammar used by both Biddy and Quincy off-putting. It read to me as more characteristic of economic disadvantage and poor education than of the disabilities it was intended to signal. While the book clearly supports the efforts to ban the “R-word,” when Biddy clearly states on the first page “Granny shouldn’t call me Retard. I know that. It ain’t nice,” I disliked the constant use of “Speddie” to indicate people with disabilities throughout the book. It does no good to eliminate one derogatory term just to replace it with another.
I was also uncomfortable with the interior dialog and thought processes portrayed in Girls Like Us. The author biography states that Ms. Giles was a special education teacher for 20-years, which means she had plenty of experience with the externalities of being with and interacting with disabled students. My time at the edges of the Autistic community has sensitized me to how much the internal lived experience of a person with a disability can differ from what can be observed from outside. I left Girls Like Us wondering if Quincy and Biddy would ring true to young adults with disabilities.
So in the end, my conclusion is that Girls Like Us is well worth the time to read though the reservations described above kept it from earning a 5-star rating from me.
* The Schneider Family Book Awards honor an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences. Awards are typically given in three categories: birth through grade school (age 0–8), middle grade (age 9–13) and teens (age 14–18).