The Girls I've Been
The Girls I've Been

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Annotation: When seventeen-year-old Nora O'Malley, the daughter of a con artist, is taken hostage in a bank heist, every secret she is keeping close begins to unravel.
Catalog Number: #293828
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Penguin
Copyright Date: 2021
Edition Date: 2021
Pages: 356 pages
Availability: Available
New Title: Yes
ISBN: Publisher: 0-593-35380-3 Perma-Bound: 0-7804-9840-2
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-593-35380-6 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-9840-2
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2020037088
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up Until she was 12 years old, Nora, who is white, had many names. Each came with a unique personality designed to help her mother complete the con she ran with the men she targeted. Beautiful and blonde, athletic with dark braids, and other appearances, each girl served a purpose to pull the most money out of the game. The last con ended when her mother fell in love with a man who knew the game far better than she, leading to a disastrous confrontation that sends him and Nora's mother to prison. Rescued by her older sister, Lee, who escaped the same family dynamic, Nora is helped by therapy, her white best friend Wes, and her new love, freckled brunette Iris. Also children of abuse, they help her to regain a sense of who she really is. All of this is threatened, however, when one day they happen to be in a bank as a robbery unfolds. This action-packed story sizzles with suspense as Nora quickly grasps that this is a situation she not only understands, but all that she has learned until now can work in her favor. She is going to run a daring con to facilitate their escape. Told in alternating chapters as the bank con unfolds, readers meet each of the girls that Nora became, the results of their cons and how each shapes her, giving her the skills she uses now to escape. But Nora can't do this alone. VERDICT In this thriller, characters prove that they can rely on their strength, friendship, and desire to be the confident and caring people they know themselves to be. Connie Williams, Petaluma, CA
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
When three friends find themselves in a hostage situation, they must share their biggest secrets in order to survive.Beginning at age 7, Nora (not her real name) molded herself into the perfect daughter personas her mother created for each of her high-stakes sweetheart cons. Each false identity taught her something new: creativity, deceit, fear, sacrifice, cunning. It’s been 5 years (and many therapy sessions) since her half sister, Lee (not her real name, either), helped her escape their mom’s toxic clutches, but at 17, Nora still can’t quite settle into normal civilian life. So when she’s taken hostage in an attempted bank robbery alongside her girlfriend, Iris, and her ex-boyfriend, Wes, who is also friends with Iris, she instinctively conjures up the girls she’s been to get them all out alive. Bracketed by present-day phone transcripts, Nora’s whip-smart, matter-of-fact narration unfolds in intricate, nonlinear layers to reveal just enough of her past for readers to understand exactly what she’s capable of and what she’s planning now. Though Nora’s past drives the plot, her relationship with Iris dramatically shapes the present. Nora is openly and confidently bisexual, and while Lee’s sexuality is ambiguous, she’s also had a significant same-sex relationship. All major characters are presumed White.A captivating, explosive, and satisfyingly queer thriller. (Thriller. 13-18)
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* For the last five years, Nora O'Malley has lived with her sister, Lee, cobbling together a normal life. Her biggest problem now is how to apologize to Wes, her best friend and ex-boyfriend, for hiding the fact that she and their mutual friend, Iris, are a couple. When the three of them meet at the bank for an errand after Wes walks in on Nora and Iris, Nora's braced for an awkward scene, not a violent one t life-or-death is exactly what she gets when two men initiate an out-of-control bank robbery. But five years ago? Nora wasn't Nora e was a string of different girls, raised to help her mom con shady criminal businessmen; Nora has spent years recovering from the traumas those girls both endured and inflicted. She'll need every bit of cunning she learned from them if she's going to get Iris and Wes out of this bank alive en if it means showing the girl she's beginning to love her darkest self. Sharpe (Far from You, 2014) puzzles together an arrestingly incisive narrative that darts between the past and present. With breathtaking precision, she tracks each moment Nora spends in the bank, while also layering in piecemeal the moments from her past, tinged with pain and resilience, that made her who she is. Fiercely captivating and impressively characterized, this tightly plotted thriller is engrossing from start to finish.
Reviewing Agencies: - Find Other Reviewed Titles
Starred Review ALA Booklist (12/1/20)
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews (12/1/20)
Reading Level: 6.0
Interest Level: 9-12
Chapter 1: August 8, 9:09AM

It was supposed to be twenty minutes.

That's what I told myself when I woke up that morning. It wouldbe just twenty minutes. We'd meet in the bank parking lot, we'd go in, we'd make the deposit, and it would be awkward, it would be so awkward, but it would be twenty minutes, tops.

I could survive twenty minutes with my ex-boyfriend and new girlfriend. I could handle the awkwardness. I was a freaking champ.

I even got donuts, thinking maybe that would help smooth things over after last night's make-out interruptus, which I know is downplaying what happened. I get fried dough can't fix everything, but still. Everyone loves donuts. Especially when they have sprinkles . . . or bacon. Or both. So I get the donuts--and coffee, because Iris is basically a grizzly bear unless she downs some caffeine in the morning--and of course, that makes me late. By the time I pull up to the bank, they're both already there.

Wes is out of his truck, tall and blond and leaning against the chipped tailgate, the bank envelope with all the cash from last night next to him. Iris is lounging on the hood of her Volvo in her watercolor dress, her curls swinging as she plays with that lighter she found on the railroad tracks. She's gonna set her brush-out on fire one of these days, I swear to God.

"You're late" is the first thing Wes says when I get out of my car.

"I brought donuts." I hand Iris her coffee, and she hops off the hood.


"Can we just get this over with?" he asks. He doesn't even look at the donuts. My stomach clenches. Are we really back to this? How can we be back to this, after everything?

I press my lips together, trying not to look too annoyed. "Fine." I put the bakery box back in my car. "Let's go." I snatch up the envelope from his tailgate.

The bank's just opened, so there are only two people ahead of us. Iris fills out the deposit slip, and I stand in line with Wes right behind me.

The line moves as Iris walks over with the slip, taking the envelope from me and tucking it into her purse. She looks warily at Wes, then at me.

I bite my lip. Just a few more minutes.

Iris sighs. "Look," she says to Wes, propping her hands on her hips. "I understand that the way you found out wasn't great. But--"

That's when Iris is interrupted.

But not by Wes.

No, Iris gets interrupted by the guy in front of us. Because the guy in front of us? He chooses that moment to pull out a gun and start robbing the freaking bank.

The first thing I think is Shit! The second thing I think is Get down. And the third thing I think is We're all gonna die because I waited for the bacon donuts.

Excerpted from The Girls I've Been by Tess Sharpe
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Soon to be a Netflix film starring Millie Bobbie Brown! In this feminist, suspenseful thriller the daughter of a con artist is taken hostage in a bank heist—and will need to tap into all her skills in order to survive. 


Nora O'Malley's been a lot of girls. As the daughter of a con-artist who targets criminal men, she grew up as her mother's protégé. But when her mom fell for the mark instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con: escape.

For five years Nora's been playing at normal. But she needs to dust off the skills she ditched because she has three problems:

#1: Her ex walked in on her with her girlfriend. Even though they're all friends, Wes didn't know about her and Iris.

#2: The morning after Wes finds them kissing, they all have to meet to deposit the fundraiser money they raised at the bank. It's a nightmare that goes from awkward to deadly, because:

#3: Right after they enter the bank, two guys start robbing it.

The bank robbers may be trouble, but Nora's something else entirely. They have no idea who they're really holding hostage . . .

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