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  • I read a lot, and I have a lot of opinions, so I can't believe I haven't made a list like this before. If you are even a little bit like me or you want to get a peek into my psyche (you probs don't), these are the books to read.

Posts Tagged ‘Cracked Up to Be’

Some Girls Are

Posted on January 25th, 2010 by annakjarzab

I’m a pretty hard person to impress, literarily speaking. I’m intensely critical of everything I read, which I realize is often to my own detriment and no one else’s. I’m really good at destroying my own enjoyment of the act of reading by being insanely hard on most books, demanding perfection and shaking my head disapprovingly when it isn’t delivered. I spend about 90% of my reading hours being smugly judgmental towards whatever book it is that’s being forced to endure my jaded eye, and I go into most books expecting them to be bad. I know! This is a horrible thing to do. There’s a whole other blog post in here somewhere about how I need to read but don’t love to read most of the time, which is sad and a reason to pause and think about what exactly such a thing is accomplishing, but that post is not this post.

This post is about the few times a year I really get swept off my feet by a book. It happens! And actually, now that I’m looking over my Good Reads (Goodreads? GoodReads? I never know how to write that) list from last year, it happens relatively often. Last year it happened with many titles, including Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers. Courtney is a favorite of mine. She’s a new author like me, although she has one more book out than I do, she’s smart, she’s funny, she’s got a sense of humor about her own work and the business of being a writer, she loves Twilight while simultaneously laughing at it, which is how I feel about Twilight…sometimes I feel like Courtney and I were built to be best friends, if it weren’t for the pesky “growing up in different countries” thing (CS is a Canadian, but let’s not hold that against her–I KID I KID).

On January 11, I went up and down the Upper West Side looking for my book. I KNOW, the pub date was January 12. But sometimes bookstores put titles out early–Kim had found it at a store in Long Island on January 10–so I had to try. I struck out at all three of the stores I checked (all of whom put out their copies the next day), so at the last one, to boost my spirits, I bought Courtney’s new book, Some Girls Are, and gobbled it up in two days, then promptly loaned it to a friend so I will not be fact checking this review against the finished copy. Sorry in advance.

somegirlsareSome Girls Are is narrated by the very cool, very pissed off Regina Afton. Why is Regina so pissed off? Well, she’s been properly expelled from the coolest clique in school, and let me tell you that “mean girls” doesn’t even begin to describe this posse. They’re the world’s most awful humans, and Regina used to be one of them. Regina was terrible, too–there are no free passes in Courtney Summers books. You don’t get to be a martyr just because you’re a victim. That’s why I love Courtney’s books. She insists that even her narrators–especially her narrators, the people you’re supposed to relate to and love–own up to and suffer the consequences of their own actions. It’s some of the most honest work being done in the YA world. Courtney is brutal to her characters, something I really believe in. She forces them to look in the most revealing mirror and get a good look at their true selves before she lets them be redeemed.

Regina really gets it from all sides. She is the victim of an assault that is then twisted by a devious rival into an act of betrayal, which incurs the wrath of Regina’s ex-best friend, Anna (it’s okay Courtney I know it’s totally a coincidence that the evil girl’s name is Anna and I’m not even mad at you!), who unleashes a rain of terror (see what I did there?) upon Regina’s head. Rotting meat stuffed in the locker, physical violence, emotional tyranny…it’s all part of the torture Regina is expected to endure because she purportedly hurt her best friend. Not only is Regina going through that hell, but she’s also coming face-to-face with the horrible things she actually did do, including spreading rumors about a wonderfully sweet boy, turning him into a social outcast and exposing him to ridicule, and helping to drive a former friend to suicide (failed, thankfully). These people–Michael, whom Regina falls in love with, and Liz, whom she struggles to make things up to with little success–stand as monuments to Regina’s horrible legacy, which may or may not be part of the person she still is.

What’s beautiful about Regina and Michael’s love story is that its greatest obstacles are not counterfeited by authorial machination (for the most part), but are absolutely and believably intrinsic to the characters, which is where all actually relationship obstacles come from! Here’s the thing about paranormal romances (and I understand this is an aside, but please go with it): they often come with some sort of problem attached–Edward and Bella can’t be together because he’s a monster whose basest instinct is to rip out her throat and drink her blood like she’s a Big Gulp, etc.–that has nothing to do with the characters themselves, only their circumstances, which they’re not responsible for, so the characters can be unassailable, just victims in all of this. They love each other, purely and entirely, they just can’t be together because it’s forbidden. But, fun as paranormal romances are, that’s their most devious lie. The obstacles are all external, but actual romantic obstacles are mostly internal, but to bring them out into the open is to make the characters, who you’re supposed to like, culpable in their own suffering and each other’s, which is a brave thing to do. More realistic, but less cinematic.

So what makes a true romance great is the presentation of two people who want to be together but aren’t willing to give up some of their own prejudices, resentments, conflicting desires, ambitions, etc, to make it happen, or don’t know if they’re capable of doing so (HELLO Pride & Prejudice). That’s Regina and Michael in a nutshell. He likes her and is attracted to her, but every time he gets close to her he remembers what she did to him and it sends him reeling. She likes him and is attracted to him, but she thinks he’s never going to be able to forgive her, and as much as she wants to there’s a little bit of her former mean girl she might not be able to shake. And Regina’s not walking away from her former life because she wants to–she’s being forced away from it, and he knows that. How can he trust her? How can she trust herself? She certainly never has before. Now that is the stuff of great romance, if your characters decide that they want to be with the other person more than they want whatever it is that’s conflicting with it. If Michael can’t forgive Regina, that’s understandable, but he has to do that in order to be with her–if he can do it, then that’s the most romantic thing I can possibly imagine.

Anyway, this book is simply one of the best books I’ve ever read. I love it more than I love Cracked Up to Be, which I loved A LOT. It’s just right up my alley, Courtney’s stuff. She and I are concerned with the same things: the pain and suffering it takes to figure out who you are in the world and what kind of person you want to spend your life being, and how that’s reflected in how we treat others, and how we learn and grow from our mistakes, or don’t, and how grief be not proud and how people be not perfect, not even close, but how we can love them anyway, in their imperfection, profoundly more in fact because perfect people are dull and nonexistant.

I hate having to wrap up reviews because
I always want to leave on a high note, but I can never think of anything cool to say, so it’s mostly like, “Um, yeah, so buy this book and read it because it’s awesome.” Which is stupid, but a sort of Anna Jarzab stupid that I’ve decided to accept.

So, buy this book and read it because it’s awesome. I’m out like trout.