"Her characters are realistically flawed and you can almost smell the desperation that drips off of nearly every one of them, whether they are desperate for friendship, love, or forgiveness for missteps. " (Cracked Up To Be)
"Courtney Summers lovers will find the same old awesome in this one: gritty topic, beautiful writing, a bitchity main girl, and a lightning fast read." (Cracked Up To Be)
"At times, her books feel almost painfully realistic. This one definitely gives you the feeling of what bullying actually feels like--about the hopelessness and loneliness of it all. And about how either willfully or negligently unaware parents and teachers can be. " (Some Girls Are)
I really have to give Summers props for coming up with what I feel like is one of the harshest things you could ever say to another human being: "You make me feel alone." (FfA) If someone said that to me, I think I'd probably cry for hours. But having read two more of her books after that initial one, it doesn't surprise me that one of her characters would say that to another. She really is the queen of writing manipulative characters. I truly don't know of any YA authors who do it better. If you enjoy honest and realistic YA and you haven't read her books, you are an idiot. (sorry, I was just trying on my Courtney Summers mean girl character hat for a minute.) What I meant to say is, read them! You'll love them!
…too much resolution…
…too damn HAPPY…
And I haven’t failed to notice that most of the time, I am alone out here on my grumpy little island. (Tatiana visits quite often, however. We make bitter, bitter mojitos.) It’s not really a mystery why so many people love to read happy stories about people learning from their mistakes and then riding off into the sunset. Those stories can make you feel hopeful and optimistic about the world. They can make your heart swell and your face ache from grinning.
Unless you’re me. None of that happens for me, ever. At least, not when it’s “supposed to” happen. Not with the stories specifically written to elicit those emotions. And I admit that sometimes I feel like there’s this big, cheerful, exciting club that I’ll never belong to. Sometimes I pick up a “heartwarming” story for review with this complete sense of dread because I know that I’ll probably be the one person to dump all over it while you all are hanging out and celebrating.
This rambling opening is all just a semi-relevant precursor to the reasons that I adore the writing of Courtney Summers so much. Reading her books is like having an author specifically address each of my gripes one by one. Her characters never make unrealistic progress, her stories are never resolved into neat little packages, and the word “happy” doesn’t belong anywhere near her books. Her stories make me feel uncomfortable and bruised; they force me to sit with my darkest places and they linger in my mind long after I’ve finished them. Her writing is pared down and striking in its honest simplicity.
But perhaps the thing I love most of all is that Courtney Summers’ books make me get in touch with my inner smug bitch. You see, I kind of love reading negative reviews for her books – reviews that say things like, “the main character is just so…awful” or (in outrage) “There was no resolution in the end!!!” or “I just wish that it wasn’t so dark.” (Note: I made up all of these quotes. They do not come from actual reviews.) I love reading those reviews because they make me feel like I’m finally the one on the inside. I’m finally a member of the club that gets something, and not on the outside shaking my head. Unhappiness never felt so good!
I am talking about Some Girls Are - a novel about a mean girl.
The reason why I stay away from mean girl books is because most of the time they are too... humanizing and forgiving. You normally have a bully girl who is a nasty person but who learns during the course of a novel the wrongness of her behavior. We also find out why she is the way she is. Then she changes for better, possibly says sorry to her victim(s), and everything bad is forgiven and forgotten. And I am often left feeling like these characters are cut too much slack.
I never felt that way reading Some Girls Are. Regina is as mean of a girl as they come. When she crosses another mean girl, she finally gets a taste of hard-core bullying that she's been on a giving side of for years. Does she learn her lesson, become better and drive into sunset with a hot boyfriend at her side? Not really.
I liked that Courtney Summers never made Some Girls Are into a "lesson" story. I liked being in a mean girl's head and seeing how horrifying and damaging it is to live always hating and being hated. I enjoyed reading about predatory social dynamics in a mean girls' group. And I LOVED that there was no easy forgiveness for Regina. Whatever she did in her young life, she would have to carry with and within herself forever, but there is still a tiny possibility of Regina being able to make a positive change. There is more truth in such ending than in any HEA.
Having read all Summers' novel, I know for sure Regina is my favorite character. She is hateful, but she is proactive and vocal, and that separates her from the author's other more subdued and less "mean" heroines. Who knew I would ever end up falling for a mean girl?