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Excerpt from The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Nowhere Girls

by Amy Reed

The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed X
The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2017, 416 pages
    Jul 2019, 432 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Cynthia C. Scott
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Print Excerpt

The thing about evolution that Erin needs to get to the bottom of is how sometimes it's this unexpected and unplanned thing that is the most necessary. Freak accidents are what make evolution possible, what made one fish start breathing air, what made his progenies' flippers turn into feet. So often, the key to survival is mutation, change, and most of the time that change is nothing more than an accident. Sometimes it's the freaks of nature who end up being the strongest.

In the small but steadily growing Mexican part of town, there is one extended family consisting of five adults, two teenagers, seven children under the age of fourteen, and one wilted matriarch with quickly advancing dementia and questionable citizenship status. This does not include the additional cousins, second cousins, and cousins-once-removed scattered across Prescott and several surrounding towns. Rosina Suarez is the only child to a single mother, a widow whose husband died only five months after they were married, six months before baby Rosina was born. Instead of a father, Rosina has an extended family of aunts and uncles and cousins who move in and out of her house as if it were their own. Her mother's two sisters-in-law, who live in the identical townhouse apartments to the left and right of Rosina's, have been blessed with living husbands and large families. Their children do not complain or talk back or wear dark clothing, do not paint their faces with unflattering makeup or shave the sides of their heads or listen to loud music from the 1990s that consists mostly of girls' screaming.

Rosina's family is from the mountains of Oaxaca, with deep indigenous Zapotec roots, with short, sturdy bodies and smooth dark brown skin, round faces and flat noses. Rosina's father was a mestizo from Mexico City, more European than Indio, and Rosina is tall and thin like him, towering over her family, an alien among them in so many ways.

As the eldest and only daughter, Rosina's mother has inherited the duty to house and look after her grandmother, who has a tendency to wander off when no one's looking. And because Rosina is her family's eldest daughter, it is also her duty to look after the entire brood of cousins, in addition to her regular shifts at her uncle José's restaurant, La Cocina, the best Mexican restaurant in Prescott (some would say the entire extended Eugene metropolitan area), and the center of the family's economy. Rosina spends the two and a half hours between the end of school and the start of her shift at the restaurant at her other uncle's house watching her seven young cousins while Abuelita somehow takes a nap on a chair in the corner despite the screaming horde of children, and Rosina's eldest cousin, Erwin, who is a senior at Prescott High and, in Rosina's opinion, the biggest waste of breath in the state of Oregon, sits around playing video games and popping his zits, with periodic trips to the bathroom, which Rosina suspects are masturbation breaks. Rosina's second-oldest cousin is a boring girl with no interests who is almost thirteen and perfectly qualified to take her place as primary babysitter. But Rosina is, and always will be, the oldest girl, and it is, and always will be, her responsibility to be her mother's assistant and take care of the family.

How is Rosina ever going to form a band if she's busy every afternoon changing diapers and keeping the toddlers from sticking sharp knives in electrical sockets? She should be rocking, she should be screaming into a mic onstage, not singing lullabies to her unappreciative little shit cousins while they smear boogers on her favorite pair of black jeans, which she has to hang outside to dry because the dryer's broken again, where they're going to get faded and absorb the smell of so many neighbors' tortillas frying.

The front door opens. One of the babies squeals with delight at the appearance of his mother, returned from working the lunch shift at the restaurant. "I'm out of here, Tía," Rosina says, leaping up from the couch and out the door before her aunt can even close it behind her. Rosina steps over the scattered pieces of hand-medown junk that pass as toys, jumps on her secondhand bike, and gets the hell out of there without noticing the spit-up on her leg and something brown on her shirt that is either smashed banana or baby poop.

Excerpted from The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed. Copyright © 2017 by Amy Reed. Excerpted by permission of Simon Pulse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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