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American girls

First edition.
New York, NY : Flatiron Books, 2016.
Physical Description:
293 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
"Portions of this book originally appeared in a slightly different form under the title "Anna Has Two Mommies" in Waccamaw"--Title page verso.
Fifteen-year-old Anna runs away to Los Angeles where her half-sister takes her in, but after spending days on television and movie sets, she learns LA is not the glamorous escape she imagined.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.8 12 183232.


Call Number
TEEN Umminger, A.

On Order



A bittersweet, honest, and widely acclaimed YA coming-of-age novel that distills honest truths about American girldom

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, violence, and which people society deems worthy of caring about, which ones it doesn't, in a way not often seen in teen fiction.

American Girls is:

An ALA Booklist Top 10 First Novel
A Kirkus Best Book of the Year
A Barnes & Noble Best YA Book of the Year
A Chicago Public Library Best of the Best of 2016
A Bustle Best YA Book of the Year
YALSA 's Best Fiction for Young Adults

"Messy, honest, and unflinchingly real. I can't get this book out of my head. I don't want to get this book out of my head. " --Becky Albertalli, Morris Award-winning author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Author Notes

ALISON UMMINGER grew up in Arlington, Virginia, and as an undergraduate was the fourth woman to be elected president of The Harvard Lampoon . Today, she is a professor of English at the University of West Georgia in Carrollton, Georgia, where she lives with her family. American Girls is her first novel.

Reviews 4

School Library Journal Review

Gr 8 Up-Anna's parents have divorced, and her mother has started a new relationship and a new family. The teen feels like she is being pushed aside and is having trouble establishing her place in school and at home. With her life spiraling out of control, Anna steals her stepmother's credit card and buys an airline ticket to Los Angeles, where her sister Delia, an aspiring actress, lives. As part of Anna's punishment, she must pay for the credit card theft. Delia's director friend hires Anna to research the infamous Manson girls for a screenplay he is working on. As Anna delves deeper into the lives of the lost and misled girls who took part in the mass murders of 1969, she recognizes her own need for love and acceptance and finds the path to healing. Anna is crass, snarky, and hypercritical of herself and others. She is difficult to like until halfway through the book, when she begins to turn her focus outward. Umminger tackles the problems that develop when our culture places an unhealthy emphasis on outward appearances and the damage that can occur from emotional abuse. Narrator Jennifer Grace turns in a lively and realistic portrayal of the irritable and sarcastic teen. VERDICT High school students who like thoughtful books served up with a side of snark will eat this up. ["Recommended for fans of realistic fiction who have a morbidly curious streak running through them but who may not be quite ready for the truly "hard" stuff yet": SLJ 5/16 review of the Flatiron book.]-Lisa Hubler, Charles F. Brush High School, Lyndhurst, OH © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Tired of being the "leftover" of her parents' divorce and eager to disappear after a prank goes too far, 15-year-old Anna uses her stepmother's credit card to buy a ticket to Los Angeles, where her sister Delia, a struggling actress, lives. Surrounded by Hollywood's beautiful and morally corrupt, Anna navigates interactions with Delia's ex-boyfriend, Roger, who is shooting a movie about L.A. murders, and her sister's current love interest, a writer on a kids' show, as well as her own blossoming romance with a teen actor. Forced to pay back the money she stole for her flight, Anna takes a job researching the Manson girls for Roger. Her immersion into the Manson murders leads to paranoia when it appears that Delia is being stalked. Debut author Umminger's humor is biting ("My family was clearly the place where optimism went to die"), yet it reveals richly complicated relationships among mothers, daughters, and sisters. Umminger crafts a Los Angeles both glittering and soulless, leading to Anna's realization that she may have more in common with the Manson girls than she thought, but it's the choices she makes that set her apart . Ages 13-up. Agent: Neeti Madan, Sterling Lord Literistic. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

A bright, prickly teenager struggles to find her place while spending a summer exploring the contradictions of Hollywood, replete with beautiful actors, has-been pop stars, and the specter of the Manson girls.Umminger's debut novel follows 15-year-old Anna, a smart, cynical white girl who escapes a complicated home situation by "borrowing" her stepmother's credit card to run away to Los Angeles. There, she reunites with her actress sister for the summer and is recruited by her sister's dubious director (and ex-boyfriend) to research the Manson girls for his film project. The more time Anna spends tagging along on TV and film sets, the more she begins to notice the surprising ways in which the subtle yet pervasive emotional violence in her own life and the lives of those around her mirror the personal histories of the Manson girls, who were, after all, once "regular" girls. Setting her tale against the glittery, gritty backdrop of modern-day Los Angeles, the author deftly weaves together multiple story strands to create a razor-sharp commentary on our culture, observed with keen wit from the perspective of one honest and complex American girl.An insightful, original take on the coming-of-age story, this novel plumbs the depths of American culture to arrive at a poignant emotional truth. (author's note) (Fiction. 14 up) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Anna, 15, is tired of her life. She feels like a relic from her parents' first marriage, and now that her mother and new stepmother have had a baby together, Anna feels even more out of place. So she borrows her stepmother's credit card and books herself a flight to L.A., where her half sister Delia lives. Despite the ensuing blow-up, Anna is granted a summer furlough during which she watches Delia, a struggling actress, at work and becomes involved in a project involving Charles Manson and the women who murdered for him. Through her research and observations on the dark side of celebrity and the struggles Delia faces, both as an actress and as a woman in Hollywood, Anna slowly comes to terms with her family and herself. In some ways, this debut is a by-the-book bildungsroman, but Anna's wry, biting voice elevates it to something more. The Manson girls are certainly an evocative lens, but their presence is effectively understated; this is not a sensationalized look at a family of serial killers, but a mirror held up to a certain type of violence that effects women in America every day. Bittersweet and true, Anna's journey to self-discovery is one that should be widely read.--Reagan, Maggie Copyright 2016 Booklist