Monday, March 22, 2010

Book Review: Some Girls Are, by Courtney Summers

I've been a huge Courtney Summers fan for about a year.

I don't mean a fan of her books, but of Courtney Summers herself.

As soon as I heard her interview on I Should be Writing, with her brutal honesty about the struggle between writing and internet distractions, plus her palpable passion for zombies, I knew I had discovered someone after my own heart.

So when Some Girls Are, Summers' second (published) novel, came out, I was all over it. It follows the life of high school student Regina Afton, who begins as part of an elite clique of popular mean girls, but soon finds herself on the other side of their bullying. Given the teenage characters, the book is stuck under the "young adult" genre, but that doesn't tell you much about what kind of story the characters experience. For that, I make what is perhaps an unexpected suggestion: Some Girls Are is a horror novel.

It's not the horror of your former friend come back from the dead to chomp on your guts; but rather the horror of your former friend come back from apparent betrayal to shove you down the stairs. Is that any less threatening? Plus, mean girls have a weapon that monsters rarely possess: the ability to socially mortify their enemies. To me, that's a prospect as chilling as a knife in the dark.

Enhancing the discomfort is the present-tense first-person narration. Such immediacy makes every blow, bruise, and blush really felt. The writing is sparse, yet with room for a distinct voice that breathes life into the main character (though some supporting characters could be better developed). With her short chapters (some just one word), Summers excels at something that I think a lot of writers struggle with—and I know I struggle with this—this ability to string readers along, waiting upon every letter to know what comes next—this all-important concept of ... pacing. Some Girls Are has that elusive "I'll just read one more chapter" factor.

A possible complaint is that the main character isn't very likable. However, I think there is an ambiguous theme about karma running through the story; you know the main character deserves everything she gets, yet you root for her to overcome it, and empathize with her desire to perpetuate the cycle of bullying. It takes a bit of sadism (or is it masochism?) to get embroiled in such a story, but I think anyone can relate with that, and it's a lot more realistic and human than some saccharine Nicholas Sparks novel.

Obviously I'm not the target demographic of Some Girls Are (being a 30 year old dude, rather than a 17 year old chick), but I gotta be honest: I loved the hell out of this miserable little story. I can now say I'm not only a fan of Courtney Summers, but a fan of her work as well. I can't wait to see what she comes out with next. Zombie novel pls k thx?

(apparently the title of her next book is Fall For Anything, which I am hoping is a clever double-reference to how zombies are both very stupid and very easy to kill)

UPDATE 03/23/10:

OMFG, be still my heart. ALL MY DREAMS HAVE COME TRUE.


(I'm trying a new thing where I include these links to buy the books I review, and I'll make a few bucks if anyone does. I'm still not afraid to say if books suck though, obv. If this annoys you, let me know).


Tahereh said...

ahahaha GREAT POST!! courtney summers is made entirely of AWESOME. thanks for recognizing her.

best of luck with all you do!

Melissa Walker said...

Just finished this book last night and I am soooo impressed. It's an amazingly powerful story.

Lucas Darr said...

As an older guy, I also felt a little stalker-ish by liking (and gushing) over Courtney's novels but they are just malignantly dark and delicious, yet strangely hopeful, I can't help myself.

And I agree, she should write a zombie book, and call it Zombie Noir.

Phronk said...

Thanks all! I'm glad we all agree about Courtney Summers' awesomeness.


Stupid S names.

Hey Lady! said...

This book sounds like it has similar themes to the television show "Veronica Mars", if you've not seen that, check it out.

I'll have to look into this book as well (though I rarely read a book I can't review on my book club site!).

sarah said...

be more obvious about trying to pick up courtney summers via your blog sheesh.