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May 24, 2016 • Cee • Reviews

American Girls

American Girls by Alison Umminger • June 7, 2016 • Flatiron Books (Macmillan)
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She was looking for a place to land.

Anna is a fifteen-year-old girl slouching toward adulthood, and she’s had it with her life at home. So Anna “borrows” her stepmom’s credit card and runs away to Los Angeles, where her half-sister takes her in. But LA isn’t quite the glamorous escape Anna had imagined.

As Anna spends her days on TV and movie sets, she engrosses herself in a project researching the murderous Manson girls―and although the violence in her own life isn’t the kind that leaves physical scars, she begins to notice the parallels between herself and the lost girls of LA, and of America, past and present.

In Anna’s singular voice, we glimpse not only a picture of life on the B-list in LA, but also a clear-eyed reflection on being young, vulnerable, lost, and female in America―in short, on the B-list of life. Alison Umminger writes about girls, sex, violence, and which people society deems worthy of caring about, which ones it doesn’t, in a way not often seen in YA fiction.


I received this book for free from Flatiron Books for review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

First sentence: “My first Manson girl was Leslie van Houten, the homecoming princess with the movie-star smile.”

When a young teenage girl becomes fed up with her family in Atlanta, what does she do? For Anna, she “borrows” her stepmom’s credit card and runs away to Los Angeles, where her half-sister lives. However, being in the City of Angels is not exactly the out she had hoped for.

American Girls takes you on a ride that explores people who are struggling; the unglamorous life of LA and Hollywood; the darkness that is in everybody; and the fascinating Manson girls. This is not a happy portrayal of teenage girls; it’s a dark coming-of-age story of a girl deep in American culture.

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