The Girls I’ve Been – Tess Sharpe – G.P. Putman’s Sons Books for Young Readers – Published 26 January 2021




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 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 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…

My thoughts

Looking for a thriller novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat? The Girls I’ve Been is an exciting novel that is part heist novel, part mystery. It is unique, romantic (lgbt+), and will have you desperate to uncover the truth about the girls Nora has been (and what that even means).

I adore mystery/thriller novels. And sometimes, it is a little hard to find good YA mystery/thriller novels. Books that justify why the teenager is involved in the crime/crime fighting. The Girls I’ve Been does that and so much more. Two main mystery threads run through the story and are told in alternating chapters that span the past and present. It kept me hooked to the pages and eager to learn what had transpired to make Nora the girl she is today (kind of scary, totally cool, wouldn’t want to meet her in a dark alley, but also totally in awe of her).

Our story starts with Nora, her ex-boyfriend and her new girlfriend stopping by the bank to make a deposit. It’s awkward, thanks to Nora’s ex discovering her new relationship mid kiss. When two armed men rob the bank, Nora starts to draw upon her specialised skill set to get the three of them to safety. But doing so means revealing her past to her girlfriend and the robbers, which might have dangerous consequences.

There is lots to love about this book. First of all, let’s talk about Nora. I love it when strong, talented young women take centre stage and all of Nora’s smooth-talking, devious planning skills are totally justified – as a reader we just don’t know why yet. But you will.

I loved that as the action in the bank unfolded, we also get to flick back and forth to Nora’s past. This is done by skipping back to each of the girls she has had to learn to be while her mother conned men. It was a dangerous and sometimes horrific childhood. I found myself torn between wanting the action of the present to continue and wanting to learn more about Nora’s past, and couldn’t put the book down.

The romance is awesome. Much of it has already happened – the beginning and the end of her romance with Wes – and her new romance with Iris. But despite the tension and high stakes, they still find time to spill some pretty big secrets and grow closer during the bank heist. Wes and Iris are both awesome characters, and they have their own backgrounds and depth of character to bring to the story, but my favourite side character has to be Nora’s sister who is fantastic and a little scary.

The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.

More information

Category: Young adult fiction

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Themes: Abuse, bank heists, romance, LGBT relationships, relationships, sisters, friendship, con artists,

Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.

Advisory: Sexual references, references to sexual relationships and sexual abuse. Violence – guns, death, murder, abuse, rape, dismemberment. Strong, frequent coarse language, f*** (77), sh** (60), bi*** (5), as***** (10), pi** (8). 

Published: 26 January 2021 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook. 368 pages.

ISBN: 9780593353806

Find it on Goodreads