Cover Girls on the Verge: Pink tire tracks on a black background

About the Book

Title: Girls on the Verge
Published: 2019

Cover Story: Hubba Bubba
BFF Charm: Big Sister
Talky Talk: High-School Required Reading
Bonus Factors: Friendship, Acting, Road Trips
Anti-Bonus Factors: Pro-Lifers, Crisis Centers
Relationship Status: Planned Parenthood Volunteer

Cover Story: Hubba Bubba

All I see when I look at those tire tracks are strips of Hubba Bubba bubblegum tape. God, that gum was some of the best, wasn’t it? The flavor lasted all of five seconds, but what glorious seconds they were.

The Deal:

Camille is pregnant, and she doesn’t want to be. This “little miracle” is messing up all of her plans, and in her panic, she turns down her spot in a prestigious summer theater program so she can figure out what to do. Her best friend, Bea, is completely shocked that Camille would want an abortion, and abandons her when Camille is at her lowest. Camille’s parents, while not horrible people, have never really gotten her, and aren’t necessarily the supportive type. With no one else to turn to, she finds an unexpected ally in the form of Annabelle Ponsonby, an old high-school theater alum, who generously offers to give her a ride to get an abortion out-of-state.

At the last minute, Bea decides to tag along. The three girls couldn’t be more different, but it’s going to take all of their combined will to make this road trip work.

BFF Charm: Big Sister

BFF Charm Big Sister with Clarissa from Clarissa Explains It All's face

I’ve never been in Camille’s situation, but the facts and figures will tell you her story is not unique. Pregnancy is already a completely overwhelming, hormonal, and emotional fragile time, but for it to then be an unwanted state of being, well, that can make even the strongest person crack. We’re definitely not seeing Camille in her best moments, but she still engendered my respect and sympathy. She’s a resourceful and brave person who I would bet will eventually turn into a strong and out-spoken woman. Even when her tale occasionally played into after-school special tropes, Camille still felt real to me. 

Swoonworthy Scale: -1

The boy who helped contribute to Camille’s family way should be shamed for the way he handled their first time together. I wanted to give her a hug and tell her that next time she should not settle for a cramped back seat that smells like greasy fast-food fries.

Talky Talk: High-School Required Reading

Just like comprehensive sex education and classes on things like budgeting and credit cards, this book should be mandatory reading for high school students. (They’re going to live in this world; why shouldn’t they know how it actually works??) Sharon Biggs Waller wrote a deeply personal, cautionary tale that will make your inner social justice warrior go into a blind rage at about every other chapter. She set her story in 2014 Texas, just after then-Governor Rick Perry gets a law passed banning abortion clinics in the state. Camille runs into what feels like every single hurdle a woman can possibly go through before she can get an abortion. Combining that with a no-nonsense writing style and a fairly short page count, this book felt, at times, very allegorical, but it managed to balance the informational aspects with an entertaining story.

For the well-informed person who has researched women’s rights, Camille’s journey might not teach you anything new, but I think it would be great for any teen who is seeking an informative and sympathetic viewpoint on the topic of abortions. Because there’s simply a few truths that we must face: 1) abortion has always been around, and isn’t going anywhere no matter how much right-wing conservatives try to legislate it away; 2) women aren’t happy about getting abortions. No one WANTS to have to go through that experience, but if they feel they must, then 3) you can learn to empathize or keep your mouth shut, but that’s all you get to do.

Bonus Factor: Friendship

Characters from Baby-Sitters' Club show sitting on a bed talking and laughing.

I will always cheer for books portraying positive female friendships. Camille and Bea have been BFFs since forever, but Bea is a lot more conservative than Camille, and that’s something they need to seriously discuss if they’re going to remain friends. Annabelle is brash, outspoken, and a little closed off, but she deserves her own BFF charm for being such a supportive friend to someone is a relative stranger.

Bonus Factor: Acting

Jamie and Landon performing in the school play (A Walk to Remember)

The trio counts acting as a shared hobby/passion, and there’s a light-hearted scene featuring a flash-mob (but for acting) near the end that brings some levity to an otherwise very serious book. My favorite little moment happened between the three girls during a contemplative star-gazing session:

We all hold hands. Stars now fill the sky. I’ve never seen so many stars in my life.
“The stars at night are big and bright,” Annabelle sings softly.
“Deep in the heart of Texas,” Bea and I sing.
“And that is why we aren’t musical theater actors,” I say.

Well, it’s good to know your strengths and weaknesses!

Bonus Factor: Road Trips

Happy Couple Driving on Country Road in Classic Vintage Sports Car

There are definitely books on this site with road trips that are way more fun than this one. But even during such dismal circumstances as having to cross state-lines because your own state won’t allow you to get a medical procedure done closer to home, the girls experience some unique moments that can only happen when you’re miles from what you know (I’ll leave the phrase “Boobie Bungalow” right here, and you’ll just have to read it to get the full story!).

Anti-Bonus Factor: Pro-Lifers

A girl holding a sign that says "ejaculation is murder" at a protest

I’m not talking about the people who subscribe to their beliefs but keep them to themselves. I’m here side-eyeing every man or woman who think they have the right to tell YOU what to do with YOUR body. Who think that an unborn fetus has more rights than a fully-grown woman, because women are, simply, “less than” in the eyes of many. Who will scream and moan about how an unwanted baby should be allowed to be born, but who offer no reasonable or practical solutions for single or struggling mothers, who whisper out of the sides of their mouths about how so many people abuse the welfare system. You suck.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Crisis Centers

The façade of a pregnancy clinic with the image of a church behind it

Of all the crappy things that Camille has to endure, I think her visit to the crisis pregnancy center was the most infuriating event to witness. Crisis centers, or pregnancy resource centers (or any other myriad of names for these fake clinics) are religion-backed organizations that present themselves as abortion clinics to fool women into coming in. Once there, they shame them for wanting abortions and try to persuade them to keep their babies by giving them false information about the horrible (fake) side effects of having an abortion. These places should be illegal; instead, as Samantha Bee from Full Frontal with Samantha Bee reports, awful politicians pass bills to get them state funding. John Oliver from Last Week Tonight also did an in-depth dive into these centers last year, and while I often get fired up watching his show, I don’t think I’ve ever been as enraged as I was while watching this segment.

Relationship Status: Planned Parenthood Volunteer

Do you need someone to protect you from the protesters or hold your hand in the waiting room? I will be right there by your side, Book. I may not have had an abortion myself, and I hope I never need to, but what I do know is that no woman should be judged, tried, and publicly shamed for wanting autonomy over their own person.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Henry Holt and Company Books for Young Readers. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. Girls on the Verge is available now.

Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.