The year is 1994 and alternative is in. But not for alternative girl Tabitha Denton; she hates her life. She is uninterested in boys, lonely, and sidelined by former friends at her suburban high school. When she picks up a zine at a punk concert, she finds an escape—an advertisement for a Riot Grrrl meet-up.
At the meeting, Tabitha finds girls who are more like her and a place to belong. But just as Tabitha is settling in with her new friends and beginning to think she understands herself, eighteen-year-old Jackie Hardwick walks into a meeting and changes her world forever. The out-and-proud Jackie is unlike anyone Tabitha has ever known. As her feelings for Jackie grow, Tabitha begins to learn more about herself and the racial injustices of the punk scene, but to be with Jackie, she must also come to grips with her own privilege and stand up for what’s right.
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Cherie does her usual spiel calling the girls down to the front, and the crush of bodies closes in on us. It’s hot and sweaty, but I don’t care. Jackie squeezes my hand, and we share a smile just as Shut Up rips into their first song.
My friends are cool. They’re in a band and they are legitimately, undeniably cool. And not in an abstract, I-like-this-music kind of way. But in an own-the-stage, make-you-want-to-start-your-own-band kind of way.
Dancing comes easier this time. I raise my hands over my head and thrash with the crowd, not caring what I look like or who’s watching. This is my territory… and theirs. In this moment, girls own this place and that’s powerful. For the first time in my life, I’m part of something bigger than myself. It may not solve world hunger, but it matters. Just like Kate’s obsessive need to protest, and Marty’s passion for Riot Grrrl, and Cherie’s unapologetic femininity, everything has its place. Even “Flabby Tabby” dancing at a concert is part of it.
I look around to take it all in. Jackie and I are once again front and center, but this time we are surrounded by dozens of girls who came to see Shut Up play. I recognize a few of them, but most are just here because they heard about a punk girl band and want to be a part of the moment. I can’t believe it. I’m part of something, and it’s not dorky or cheesy. It’s real. I’m real.
About the Author
Never one for following the “rules,” Carrie Pack is a published author of books in multiple genres, including Designs on You, In the Present Tense and the forthcoming Grrrls on the Side (2017). Her novels focus on characters finding themselves in their own time—something she experienced for herself when she came out as bisexual recently. She’s passionate about positive representation in her writing and has been a feminist before she knew what the word meant, thanks to a progressive and civic-minded grandmother. Coincidentally that’s also where she got her love of red lipstick and desserts. Carrie lives in Florida, or as she likes to call it, “America’s Wang.”
Girl gangs (AKA girl friendships)
I loved writing Grrrls on the Side because I got to write about friendships between girls. Too many novels have pitted girls against one another for the sake of a love interest. Personally I’d love to see more series about “girl gangs” like The Babysitters Club books I loved as a tween. Those books were full of teenage girl shenanigans, ranging from dealing with your divorced parent remarrying to learning to keep a secret. Yes, there were also love triangles, but in the end the girls were always friends. As I became more widely read I realized what a rare and precious portrayal that was.
Even a series like the Hunger Games where Katniss takes down a government, I wanted a side story where she and Johanna teach all the younger girls in District 13 how to fight and hunt. Prim teaches basic first aid and Rue (who lives because she should have) gives lessons in hiding in plain sight. Give me that girl gang.
I want to read an entire book about Ginny and Luna taking over Dumbledore’s Army while the Golden Trio are off finding horcruxes. In fact, I want the girls of Hogwarts to band together as McGonagall’s Gang to subvert the Death Eaters.
Basically what I’m saying is, I want more girl gangs. So I wrote one.
It was so much fun getting to write a book where there are only a couple of named male characters. It was all about a girls and their friends. They start a band and write zines. They’re bisexual, lesbian, straight, and questioning. They fall in love and break up and fall in love again. They struggle with school and life and social issues. They support each other and get in fights; they make up and move on. They have the kinds of friendships I want more of in my life and in my fiction.
So let’s make it happen. Let’s write more girl gangs. Let’s form more real life girl gangs and let’s support the hell out of each other.
And I’d love to hear from you, what are some of your favorite books with “girl gangs” in them?
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