Rhiannon Argo’s Girls I’ve Run Away With has been on my “To Read” list since Autostraddle mentioned it in their “Read a F*cking Book” column last October. After diving into the world of sixteen-year-old skater girl Lo, I can easily see why it was recommended so highly.
Argo’s novel was a stark contrast to some of my most recent reads about femme-y young lesbians growing up in relatively accepting social circles. Lo’s world is not kind to queer people (an unfortunate reality for so many LGBTQ teenagers), and sometimes reminded me of Emily Danforth’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post.
I will try to refrain from spoilers, but suffice it to say that this book’s title could never contain all of the adventures (good and bad) that occur when Lo decides to run away with her high school sort-of girlfriend, Savvy. One of Lo’s best qualities is that she has guts, but not without restraint, which makes the reader trust her even when she is in a crazy situation. Lo’s rebellious nature is a method of survival, and even if she makes a questionable decision, you have to admire her for the types of risks she takes.
Some of my favorite parts of the novel are when Lo grapples with whether to follow Savvy, the reckless dreamer, or to face the harsh reality of her family situation. Argo excels at capturing Lo’s adoration of Savvy, allowing her to be totally enamored with the girl without forgetting her rough-around-the-edges, fierce core. Lo is a fighter first, but is also vulnerable as a young lesbian in love, and that combination is what makes her so compelling as a character.
Argo also does a good job of showing how class intersects with sexuality, and how it can complicate a teenager’s decision to leave a bad situation. Financial security repeatedly competes with Lo’s need to run away, both with Savvy and in general. When she eventually gets to her breaking point and vows to leave a hostile place, Lo is forced to choose between two evils – living with people who don’t accept her or having no home at all.
Girls I’ve Run Away With confronts these realities head-on, as she details the rollercoaster of Lo’s search for stability. I found myself emotionally tired after reading about one of Lo’s hardships, only to be comforted a few chapters later by her renewed sense of hope. Though the heaviness can be hard to swallow, it is balanced by moments of happiness and joy, and overall, is definitely worth sticking with. I’m excited to hear that Argo is already working on a sequel and look forward to seeing where Lo runs to next.