Saturday, March 27, 2010

Book Review: Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

Book: Some Girls Are
Author: Courtney Summers
Published: 2010
Source: Local Library

Regina is one of those girls. You know those girls, the slavish satellites of the sun that is the most popular girl in school. She is best friends with Anna, the queen of Hallowell High School, which of course means she does all of Anna's dirty work for her. Sometimes it makes her sick, but she always does it, because at least it's not her.

Then she trusts the wrong person, and suddenly Regina is not only popularity history, but the target of all the nastiness that she used to dish out. Not only that, now that she's swimming in the dregs of the school, she's confronted with two of the lives that she helped to ruin: thoughtful loner Michael and Liz, another ex-clique girl. They hardly welcome her with open arms, though. At best, Michael is a foxhole mate, and Liz is openly disdainful. And Regina can't blame them. Because no matter why she did it, she was a bitch.

Now Regina has to negotiate both atonement and survival, and somewhere in all that, find a new self to be.

Oh, sigh. Another book about the scourge of bullies. It'll twist your stomach in all the same old ways. Except this one is different. Because Regina was one of the mean girls before she was cast out, she brings all the dubious skills this has taught her to her war against Anna and Kara. She trips Kara in gym class and trashes her locker. It's all the kind of retaliation that victims have always wished they had the courage for. Of course, this just escalates the war until it comes to physical viciousness, but there's something deeply satisfying about a victim who doesn't take it all lying down.

You can see clearly what a relief her freezeout is for Regina. Even though she's being destroyed in a thousand different ways every day, she never yearns for Anna's friendship again. There are no scenes of, "Oh, how I wish I could just call her up and talk." Because they didn't. Best friend was another term for subordinate. For most of the book, in fact, Regina isn't angry at Anna, but at Kara, the girl who told the initial lie in order to destroy Regina for yet another set of old sins. She takes a long time to start blaming Anna, because she's Anna, who has snowed everyone with her own myth of superiority. Anna is never publicly brought to her knees in the way that many bully books do. Instead, she's threatened with it, and momentarily betrays her vulnerability, and that's what Regina really needs to come to terms with all the previous events: the realization that Anna is no goddess, but just a girl, vulnerable to destruction just like anyone else.

One thing that I kept gnawing on was the apparent blindness of the adults in their life. No parent, administrator, or teacher ever seems to have the slightest inkling what's going on. Midway through the book, Regina's parents threaten her with not being able to see her friends if she keeps skipping class, oblivious to the notion that right now, this would be heaven on earth for her. As someone who works with teens for a living, I thought, "How could nobody have noticed?" As someone who was bullied in my childhood, I thought, "Yep, that's about right." Adults want to believe that we can control and protect our kids, but the truth is, they live in a different world. We're shadowy figures around the edges of their universe, occasionally capable of playing the heavy but more often used in their power struggles.

Summers' first book, Cracked Up to Be, took a somewhat unlikeable girl and actually made her understandable if not sympathetic. Some Girls Are shows that this is no one-off on Summers' part, but a real gift for very difficult characters in situations that ring absolutely true.


Audrey (holes In My brain) said...

this is an awesome review, I really liked this book :)

Lenore Appelhans said...

Your review is so on! This one made me both sick to my stomach and thankful that I never had to live with/through such bullies.