Book Talk

Book Review: The Nowhere Girls SDG 5

January 4, 2019

One of the Sustainable Development Goals is Goal 5: Gender Equality. One of the targets is The Nowhere Girls“Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.” This includes at school and in the sphere of parties that are core to adolescent life in many communities.

The Nowhere Girls (Simon Pulse, 2017) by Amy Reed is explosive. Reed fashioned a novel that delves into a myriad of ways girls, teens, young women experience abuse. It reveals a system that supports and maintains how it’s always been – steering away from the confrontation, making excuses of “boys will be boys.”

Three girls live at the core of the book. One is autistic, a queer Latina, and a nervous overweight girl new to town living in a home once occupied by a teen who claims to have been raped by three boys. These girls, who always preferred to live as shadows in their school hallways, find an unexpected cause and voice. Most of all, they find each other, and discover how friendship gives us the power to stand taller, and the strength to withstand challenges.

This also is a perfect story to show how service learning works. The process of investigation, preparation, action, reflection and demonstration are all embedded in the smart and methodical plot, and the important and varied personal snapshots that continue to weave together an undeniable sense of urgency. This is advocacy come to life!

In workshops I often describe four kinds of action – direct, indirect, advocacy, and research. However, I have also talked about four additional lenses for taking action. Action can be kind – a companion to an elderly person; helpful – tutoring a child who normally lacks needed assistance; compassionate – a response to fires or earthquakes; and the last one disruptive—changing a system to move us all forward.

I appreciate and value all the forms and approaches however when I see disruptive service occurring I do cheer. I have an impatience toward social change, making the necessary alterations in society that allow us to be our better selves, to ensure all people — women and men — have safety and can be secure. Courage creates the possibility of disruption. Clarity of vision. Collaboration. Three Cs. These girls, Erin, Rosina and Grace surprise themselves for having courage, clarity and recognize the importance of collaboration.

Also, in this book, “Nowhere Girls” have no idea where their investigation and preparation will take them. They cannot anticipate the outcome. This makes their approach all the more genuine. They have identified a truly undeniable authentic need and they trust the process and are going to see it through.

Too often in school we restrict what young people want to do because the adults in the room have an agenda, a rubric that must be checked off, an assessment that matters too much. While this book is not meant to be an example of academic service learning, i.e., an approach attached to a course of study, it is an effective example of why with service learning we are best not predicting the outcome and narrowing the vision of what might truly happen. Let the real world happen. Let the young people truly participate. Provide the requisite support. And trust the process.

This book matters for adults and teens to read. Educators at all levels, especially administrators, will do well to set aside the time to find out what The Nowhere Girls have to say.

Please send comments, questions, and ideas to

Grateful for these opportunities to connect and grow.


Cathryn Berger Kaye, M.A., is an educator/author who loves to dance, travel, take walks, read, write, and collaborate with others all over the world

Catch my latest podcast HERE.


April 14, 2019 — One day Advisory Workshop in NYC sponsored by the New York State Association of Independent Schools and open to ALL educators

March 29-31, 2019 — NESA Conference in Bangkok

July 15-18, 2019 – Join us in UPState NY for the Advisory and Service Learning Summer Institute, at Carey Conference Center outside Albany. Sponsored by the New York State Association of Independent Schools and open to ALL educators


November 7-8, 2019 – Two Day Service Learning Workshop in Vienna – link to come

More dates soon! Contact and check out the Calendar on this website.

Follow me on Twitter @ cbkaye and LinkedIn and Facebook at Cathryn Berger Kaye