What if Thelma and Louise were scared teenagers in love with one another? That’s the intriguing premise of this book as best friends Trixie and Lux set out for a quick getaway from their stifling lives in Blue Bottle, West Virginia, only to find themselves on the run after Trixie stabs a guy who tries to rape Lux in a roadside bar.
So here’s the deal, Trixie and Lux are both sympathetic, complicated characters, but they’re also both extremely average teenagers: kinda dumb, and mostly impulsive and self-centered. I suppose there’s an audience who’ll enjoy a narrative where the heroines make increasingly poor choices as they drive west across America to the ocean (conveniently ignoring the fact that a) the Atlantic is closer, and b) the Gulf of Mexico isn’t bad if you’re just looking for a saltwater beach) but I personally found the going as grim as it was depicted, which does not make for the most fun read! The only bright spark in the proceedings plot-wise was Trixie and Lux’s slow-growing best friends to lovers romance which was honestly lovely (oh, and the meeting with the triplets was quite nice too!)
Julia Lynn Rubin does throw in some great feminist commentary with the subplot of the stabbing victim and his connections back in Blue Bottle, as well as the public outcry both in favor of and against his mysterious assailants. I hope, however, that the finished version is a little more clear about the Feminazi bit at the 61% mark being in quotations, as that was quite jarring to read in the ARC format, which made it sound like Trixie was slagging off feminist protesters when she wasn’t. I was also mostly pleased that this novel does not Bury Its Gays, but I did feel that the ending only added to the liminal quality of the entire book. Liminal is fine when the space is used to examine emotions free of the pressures of momentum and time, but the effect here was more one of being trapped in stasis as the girls struggled and failed to process what they’d done. And that’s fine! That’s realistic! They’re teenagers and teenagers can be dumb as hell. But it’s also not interesting, at least not to me. For all the adventures that the girls go through, it all felt very emotionally monotonal, with desperation being the overarching theme.
Maybe I’m just not the target audience for this book. Trouble Girls wasn’t as much of a downer as I’d feared, but I really do think parts of it could have been lopped off in favor of telling us what happens next. Give me aftermath! Oh gosh, it’s as if Vladimir Nabokov had decided to have Lolita end when the road trip did, that’s what this feels like here (and is likely the only time or context in which anyone will ever compare this book to that classic.)
Trouble Girls by Julia Lynn Rubin was published June 1 2021 by Wednesday Books and is available from all good booksellers, including