Yesterday was the big announcement of the CYBILS winners, including the winner of this year’s best in YA fiction. If you missed that announcement, head over and check out the winners in each of the categories.
It was exciting to be a part of the judging panel this year, and I took away a new sense of appreciation for books and reviewing books. Likewise, I found myself fired up to get my hands on Courtney Summers’s 2010 release, Some Girls Are. As much as I really liked Cracked Up to Be, I think that her sophomore release may be even stronger, darker, intenser, and really highlights the writing and story telling skills that Summers has. I suspect she’s going to be soon joining the ranks of writers like Ellen Hopkins in capturing a wide audience of devoted readers.
Some Girls Are is what you expect of Mean Girls if mean girls were really, really mean. Regina Afton used to be one of those girls — the upper echelon of high school girls who stomp all over everyone. That is, until she was used herself in an utterly disgusting manner. When she tells one of her friends about this, the friend’s feigned sympathy turns into revenge. This is no mild revenge, mind you. This is all-out brawl-out. There is a lot of blood and a lot of gore.
Why would Regina’s friend turn on her? Simple: so she could become that girl and kick Regina out of her spotlight in the school.
As a not-it girl, Regina finds herself turning to people she once tread upon, only to find herself questioning her motives and her actions left and right, as she learns that people aren’t willing to just let go of things she’s done to them in the past. And they’re right for acting that way; Regina is not a nice girl, and though she’s being treated awfully, she shouldn’t be so easily forgiven.
Although this book certainly draws comparisons to Clique, Gossip Girls, and the film Mean Girls, I felt like Summers does something none of these titles quite does: she gives the grit. Where others might offer the mean in subdued tones and off-screen, there is no hiding in this book. While reading, there were a number of times I had to put the book down because I felt like I had been punched myself. It’s raw and it’s painful, but it’s the ultimate goal to read it all the way through because, even though Regina isn’t the most sympathetic character, it’s not possible to not know what is going to happen.
It’s a game in the school of who can one-up the other. But these one-ups are utterly disgusting and painful to read. Perhaps sadder is these are realities for so many teens today. I sincerely think that Summers not only captures contemporary high school life for many teen girls, but I think this is the sort of title that people will identify with. It will cause them to think, reflect, and in a dream world, adjust their attitudes.
This is current, filled with social networking and references to today’s culture. Some Girls Are gives us exactly what it says — it is the way some girls are. Today. It’s scary and it’s eye opening, and it is exceptionally well written.
My one gripe of the book comes from my perspective as an emerging adult. I found it tough to believe no adults had any idea what was going on. Regina’s parents are entirely clueless about what’s going on in their daughter’s life, and they never seem to notice her bruises or scars. Likewise, incidents such as rotting meat in a locker or excessive absenteeism (abetted once with a meeting between Regina’s mother and the principal) would raise flags. I think adults are a little wiser onto some of this stuff in today’s world. But, again, I speak from an adult’s perspective. Maybe it’s the end scene that sort of sums it up.
If you can handle gritty, raw writing and are in for a book that will cause physical discomfort, this is a sure bet. I think that Courtney Summers would be a great readalike to those who liked Speak or Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, any of Ellen Hopkins’s titles, or books that deal with girls and high school social hierarchy. This is a character and plot driven book that does not sway from being well-written and consciously constructed.
I’d bet dollars to donuts that this book will be in consideration for some sort of recognition in 2010. It sure deserves it, and you can bet I am anxious to get my hands on Summers’s future works, too.
Kelly Jensen is a former librarian turned editor for Book Riot. She's the author of IT HAPPENS: A Guide to Contemporary Realistic Fiction for the YA Reader and the forthcoming Feminism For The Real World (Algonquin Young Readers, Spring 2017).