When 17-year-old Rilla is busted for partying 24 hours into arriving in Yosemite National Park to live with her park ranger sister, it’s a come-to-Jesus moment in Valley Girls.
Determined to make up for her screw-up and create a stable new home for herself, Rilla charms her way into a tight-knit group of climbers. But Rilla can’t help but be seduced by experiences she couldn’t have imagined back home. She sets her sights on climbing El Capitan, one of the most challenging routes in Yosemite, and her summer becomes one harrowing and ecstatic experience after another: first climb, first fall two thousand feet in the air, first love. But becoming the person Rilla feels she was meant to be jeopardizes the reasons why she came to Yosemite—a bright new future and a second chance at sisterhood. When her family and her future are at odds, what will Rilla choose? (via Goodreads)
I received an eARC of Valley Girls from Netgalley, courtesy of publisher Amulet Books, in exchange for an honest review.
I requested this book originally because I’ve heard a lot of great things about the author and her writing of rural characters. When I got accepted, I was happy! Then I saw a thread on twitter from the author that the main character, Priscilla ‘Rilla’ Skidmore, had undiagnosed ADHD, and it climbed very very far up my reading list.
HOO BOY DOES THIS SOUND FAMILIAR just replace pot with caffeine. I was lucky that my mom fought to figure out what was going on with me in middle school. So SO many AFAB folks don’t get that luxury. https://t.co/5ZkmHBT8gK
— 💐🦊 Ceillie 🦊💐 (@CandidCeillie) 16 February 2018
Needless to say, I loved a lot about this book.
Rilla starts out as a very bratty character, and really grows into a person throughout the book. She’s not a stereotypical sugar-sweet heroine even at the end of the book. She’s made of rough edges through the end of the book, which just felt right. She learns to apologize for things she does, and to take responsibility only for things that were her responsibility.
That being said, it needs some content warnings for an abusive relationship, parental abandonment, telling a queer character they needed to come out to family members, theft, near-character death, description of injuries.
I loved the setting of Yosemite in Valley Girls. The descriptions of the park were as lush and beautiful as I imagine the park is in real life. I think it was the perfect place for this story to take place.
One thing I didn’t love was the way that Rilla & Thea’s polyamorous parents were presented in the narrative. Rilla and Thea are half sisters. They share a mother, but their dads were both a part of the relationship most of the time that they were growing up. Thea calls their mother an addict, something that was shown constantly throughout the story, but adds that one of the things she was addicted to was men. Between that and other characters’ comments, it really rubbed me the wrong way.
However, I’m not polyamorous, so I’ll leave my complaints at that. I’ll let OV reviewers talk about their experience with it.
I loved the treatment of Rilla’s family’s poverty. The Skidmore’s are “wrong side of the tracks” poor people. They are the stereotype of white, rural West Virginia. All three of her parents were in and out of jail for a variety of reasons. Rilla will do anything and everything to make money to do what she wants to do. When she gets to Yosemite, she doesn’t even have clothes that fit properly. This is another thing that the side characters that she ingratiates herself with both understand and disbelieve.
If this sounds up your alley, then you might also enjoy Hannah Moskowitz’s WILD!
Disclaimer: All links to Indiebound and Amazon are affiliate links, which means that if you buy through those links, I will make a small amount of money off of it.