“We’re the kind of popular that parents like to pretend doesn’t exist so they can sleep at night, and we’re the kind of popular that makes our peers unable to sleep at night. Everyone hates us, but they’re afraid of us too.”
At least, that’s the kind of popular Regina Afton used to be. But this? This is a freeze-out.
I was a mean girl in high school. (yes, a mean fat girl. I know, a head-spinner.) I know that term has kind of lost its sting after the movie, after Tina Fey turned it into a punchline. Don’t get me wrong, I like that movie a lot too, but it’s a comedy, a good comedy, yeah, but it’s a haha look at “mean girls” in high school. Ah, how quickly we forget. There’s nothing haha about it. The Booklist review suggested this book was good for libraries “where Gossip Girl maintains a loyal following” … but there’s nothing glossy, glamorous, or deliciously soap operatic about the betrayals and hurts in this book: that’s what makes them sting.
Courtney Summers’s Some Girls Are is a look at what mean girls are really like, what it REALLY takes to hang with the most popular and most ruthless girls in high school, the ones that make it impossible for their peers to sleep at night. It is a raw, riveting, unforgettable look at what it means to suffer through high school hell and still have the courage and determination to not give up. It’s an amazing book.
Regina is part of the clique that runs her school but after one party goes very wrong and she tells the wrong person about what happened, the group quickly turns on her. Some Girls Are is the story of how Regina faces high school, and her own past sins, in the aftermath of this incident as her friends quickly go about making her life hell.
And make no mistakes: Regina has done wrong. Kara, the girl in her group who betrays her, was previously humiliated and ignored by Regina. Interestingly, Summers suggests that Kara’s (serious) disordered eating was encouraged by Regina’s pressure. (acting on behalf of Anna, the Queen of their clique.)
Everyone knows Kara used to be fat until the second half of tenth grade, when she learned to stick her fingers down her throat and started popping diet pills. She had to wear a wig in her class photo because she was losing her hair; you can see it if you look really closely. It was the pills or the purging. And those were only suggestions, anyway.
It’s not like I told her she had to do that to herself. (pg. 28)
Wow. This is an amazing passage that confronts the real-life consequences of all that supposedly harmless body snarking and constant peer pressure regarding weight and looks that happens all too frequently among teens. Regina has other memories of how badly she treated Kara:
I stood next to her at Ford’s while she bought the over-the-counter diet pills. And then, from that point on, I watched her melt. It made Anna happy. (pg. 86)
Kara didn’t just “think she looked fat in these jeans!” – didn’t just say one or hear one negative thing about her weight: she realized that her standing in the group depended on how she looked and decided that standing was worth her health. This happens more than we’d like to admit, as adults who work with teens, as adults who live in a culture that constantly tells us “just a few pounds more!” and it’s part of what I liked best about this book.
What I Love About This Book
The list could go on forever: The prose! The characters! The tension! The messed up, compelling, utterly irresistible romance! But, really, all of that comes down to one thing: IT TELLS THE TRUTH.
The truth, the truth I remember, is that high school can be a blood sport. It was not a laughing matter. The truth was that adults can look the other way, that the people you think are your friends can turn on you in the blink of an eye if the “mood” goes against you, that all it takes is a few words to make someone’s life hell. There’s no looking away from what happens to Regina OR what Regina, herself, did.
There are big questions with no easy answers in this narrative: Regina did terrible things (not the least of them how she pressures, shames, and guilts Kara when it comes to her weight) and now terrible things are being done to Regina. What I love about this complication is that there’s not an easy answer to if this is fair… it’s a question that doesn’t really have one answer, just the kind of question teens deserve to be asked more often. (What else do I love? Regina doesn’t remain a passive, helpless victim in this cycle: she remembers how the game is played and strikes back in anger and even physically. Now the story is even more complicated: is it “right” or justified that she does this? What are the consequences of this striking back? Can this self-perpetuating cycle ever be broken? Another big question!)
Summers makes everything happening to Regina feel so immediate, so helpless, so suffocating, that when Regina actually connects with someone else, a boy named Michael she helped ostracize, their connection feels like a lifeline: urgent, confusing, and vital. This makes their connection seem tangible and real and oh-so irresistible. To me, this is 100x more dramatic than some 100 year old vampire.
Everything about this book feels so damn true.
Recommended for: All public libraries and all high school libraries, content and language make this definitely a high school level book. Also recommended for reluctant readers and fans of realistic stories with a edge.
Comment for a Chance to WIN A COPY OF THIS BOOK!
I hope you can’t wait to read this book! If you’ve already read it, I hope to hear your thoughts and opinions about it in the comments! St. Martin’s Press generously provided me with this copy and my library already has a copy, so I’m going to use random.org to select a random winner from the comments. It could be you! And if you don’t win, why don’t you go into your local library today and see if they have a copy. If they don’t, request they buy one.
As for me: I can’t wait to see what Courtney Summers writes next.