Review: Trouble girls (Julia Lynn Rubin) | reading one of my most anticipated releases—a feminist YA novel with morally grey sapphics

Can you really blame me for reading so many sapphic books when they have concepts like this? I mean, this book almost seemed to be written for me, that’s how perfect it sounded. Not only is it dark and sapphic; it’s also marketed as feminist, raw and honest, and has many elements I adore. Who can resist morally grey characters who are on the run, am I right?

It quickly became one of my most anticipated releases of the year, and with its release date only a handful of days away, it’s time to share my reading experience with y’all! Did this YA contemporary-mystery/thriller live up to its potential? Let’s take a walk and I’ll tell you all about it!

Disclaimer: this book is a pretty heavy one since the main elements are rape and rape culture, so if this is something that triggers you, I advise you not to read this post. Take care, please!

Trouble girls by Julia Lynn Rubin
Publisher: Wednesday books (Macmillan)
Release date: June 1st, 2021
Genre: Young adult, Contemporary (mystery/thriller)
Representation: lesbian and bi main characters (sapphic)
Trigger/Content warnings: alcohol (underaged), panic attacks, blood, graphic injuries, death, depersonalization, dementia, drugs, misogyny, murder, racism, sexual assault/rape, suicidal thoughts, tobacco use, homophobia

Rating: 2 out of 5.

A queer YA #MeToo reimagining of Thelma & Louise with the aesthetic of Riverdale, for fans of Mindy McGinnis, Courtney Summers, and Rory Power.

When Trixie picks up her best friend Lux for their weekend getaway, she’s looking to escape for a little while, to forget the despair of being trapped in their dead-end Rust Belt town and the daunting responsibility of caring for her ailing mother. The girls are packing light: a supply of Diet Coke for Lux and her ‘89 Canon to help her frame the world in a sunnier light; half a pack of cigarettes for Trixie that she doesn’t really smoke, and a knife—one she’s just hanging on to for a friend—that she’s never used before.

But a single night of violence derails their trip and will forever change the course of the girls’ lives, as they go from ordinary high schoolers to wanted fugitives. Trying to stay ahead of the cops and a hellscape of media attention, the girls grapple with an unforgiving landscape, rapidly diminishing supplies, and disastrous decisions at every turn. As they are transformed by the media into the face of a #MeToo movement they didn’t ask to lead and the road before them begins to run out, Trixie and Lux realize that they can only rely on each other, and that the love they find together is the one thing that truly makes them free.

In rushing, powerful prose Julia Lynn Rubin takes readers on “a blistering, unapologetic thrill ride” (Emma Berquis) that will leave them haunted and reeling. Trouble Girls is “a powerful, beautifully-written gut punch” (Sophie Gonzales).

Believe me, no one’s as shocked by that rating as me. I went into this book thinking this would become a new favourite, but I was let down immensely. A lot of this was due to the fact that I feel like this book was marketed wrongly. I somehow expected this book to delve deep into the media’s role in a story like this one, in the sexism and in the trial these two girls face. We got to see a bit of the first two, though not nearly as much as I wanted. The latter though? The story ends before we can get there, which I really think is a loss.

I also just expected…more. The execution of this amazing concept was really weak for many reasons but the thing that really brought this book down was the lack of depth. I expected characters I cared for, instead I feel like we only got to see one layer of them. The layer that’s right at the surface, might I add. Because I wasn’t rooting, or for that matter even caring, for the characters, I couldn’t be immersed into the story, either. They just didn’t have a lot of personality or chemistry in my opinion.

At one point Lux even points out Trixie’s treating her like a manic pixie dream girl (or “manic pixie bubblegum girl”, in Lux’s words) which is…fair. That’s how Trixie indeed sees her, but then, after that being said, I don’t feel like anything changed? I don’t know, I just didn’t feel anything for the characters.

“Maybe it all means absolutely nothing. Maybe there are no signs or symbols in this world at all, just things we desperately want to see.” — Julia Lynn Rubin, Trouble girls (quoted from an advanced copy)

One thing I did really think the author did amazingly is write through Trixie’s eyes. She’s very cynical and so is this book because she’s the point of view character. The prose is drained with this and I can only applaud Julia Lynn Rubin for that. It’s not an easy thing to do, but it really did work well with this book.

The novel is also just really raw and honest. There’s no beating around the bush in the writing and it’s not made more beautiful because of its target audience (young adults), something I’ve been hoping to see ever since I actively started reading. From the very first lines you really know Julia Lynn Rubin didn’t hold back, and I really appreciate that!

I really liked the sapphic rep too! It was unmistakably present and while I didn’t really feel enough chemistry between the characters (mainly because of the circumstances) to ship them, I still liked reading about their relationship. At some point Trixie also has some inner monologue in which she says “why does anyone love anyone” and I really liked that paragraph, lol! But yeah, the rep was a really good part of the book, also because of how raw and honest it was!

Unfortunately, all of that doesn’t take away that this story’s pacing is an absolute mess. It was way too fast (and like I said already, the ending came too soon). A great example of this is the key scene where they stab someone (in the very beginning). It all happened so fast I didn’t even realise this was the important scene. It was described so quickly, without any emotions or thoughts, and then they were running. It just felt…weird?

“It’s all so exhausting. Sometimes I just want a right to exist, to look however the hell I look and not feel a damn bit of shame.” — Julia Lynn Rubin, Trouble girls (quoted from an advanced copy)

Overall, I don’t think this is a bad book at all. I just think that it’s a book that lacked a very essential element: depth. With depth, I truly believe this could’ve been an amazing and revolutionary story, even. But here we are, and I’ll have to give this highly anticipated release of mine two stars…

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review! This did not affect my opinions in any way.

Well, this review was pretty painful to write, but we made it either way! I hope I haven’t shattered anyone’s expectations…either way! This obviously was a bit of a let down, but what’s your biggest disappointment of the year for you?

12 thoughts on “Review: Trouble girls (Julia Lynn Rubin) | reading one of my most anticipated releases—a feminist YA novel with morally grey sapphics

  1. ah, I’m sorry it didn’t live up to your expectations! I’ve heard the sapphic rep is good but the pacing seems to be the biggest problem, which is a shame because it sounds like there was some real potential. Really enjoyed how detailed your review is, and hope your next read is better!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. oh no i’m sorry this one didn’t live up to you’re expectations! my biggest disappointment of the year was probably some girls do. i really did not vibe with the main characters, the romance, the miscommunication, or the fact that one of the characters felt pressured to come out in unsafe home circumstances. it just wasn’t it. hopefully your next read absolutely dazzles you! thanks for this review!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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