Review of I’m the Girl by Courtney Summers @courtney_s @WednesdayBooks

I’m the Girl is another mind-bender by Courtney Summers.

Blurb: All sixteen-year-old Georgia Avis wants is everything, but the poverty and hardship that defines her life has kept her from the beautiful and special things she knows she deserves. When she stumbles upon the dead body of thirteen-year-old Ashley James, Georgia teams up with Ashley’s older sister Nora, to find the killer before he strikes again, and their investigation throws Georgia into a glittering world of unimaginable privilege and wealth–and all she’s ever dreamed. But behind every dream lurks a nightmare, and Georgia must reconcile her heart’s desires with what it really takes to survive. As Ashley’s killer closes in and their feelings for one another grow, Georgia and Nora will discover when money, power, and beauty rule, it’s not always a matter of who is guilty but who is guiltiest–and the only thing that might save them is each other.

A spiritual successor to the breakout hit Sadie, I’m the Girl is a brutal and illuminating account of how one young woman feels in her body as she struggles to navigate a deadly and predatory power structure while asking readers one question: if this is the way the world is, do you accept it?

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Georgia has a dream that her life can be better because a very important man once told her she was beautiful. She’s never forgotten that moment, even when her mother tries to get her to behave pragmatically. But her mother’s gone and she’s being raised by her older brother and she decides to chase after her dream. Things don’t quite work out the way she expects. While riding her bike toward her “dream,” she’s hit by a car. When she regains consciousness, she discovers her bike and phone are gone and then she discovers the body of Ashley James, a thirteen year old who was living life too fast and now would never be fourteen. This is the beginning of Courtney Summers’ I’m the Girl, a novel that will have you on the edge of your seat and biting your nails.

In one of her earlier novels, Sadie, Courtney Summers gives us a character who will do anything to find and avenge her sister’s murder. In I’m the Girl Sadie’s counterpart would be Nora, smart, tough, capable seeking to find the killer of her younger sister, Ashley. Nora’s character is a terrific foil for Georgia’s character, which doesn’t really become evident until well into the novel when we begin to suspect that Georgia isn’t providing us with her real truth.

As I read I’m the Girl, it became clear that I could expect almost anything of anyone. And what also became clear is that the dream vision that Georgia’s clung to, being a beautiful Aspera girl who works at the exclusive resort at the end of the road, may be smoke and mirrors, more a dream for the wealthy than a reality for a poor girl. Of course, the reality is far uglier than even I imagined, and I’ve got a good imagination (but not Courtney Summers’ good).

Georgia is a frustrating character who I had to remind myself was just a teenager and who believed everything the media doles out about how very wonderful it is to be beautiful. Being beautiful will cure all of your ills. She finds out the hard way that it doesn’t.

A theme reiterated in the novel is the power of men. “If this is the way of the world, do you accept it?” They control. They use force. They manipulate. Cleo, a mother-figure/dream-figure for Georgia, explains to her that she can manipulate. She can get a man where she wants him. She convinces Georgia that this can be enough.

Georgia, though, is a lesbian. A naïve, dreamy one at that, whose navigation of this world is troubling. She makes me think of Lolita. Of a girl testing her seduction powers without understanding what it could lead to. A girl who believes her own beauty will one day dominate the world because a powerful man called her beautiful. In this way, Georgia’s beauty is her own drug. It makes her heady, unstable, sometimes unhinged.

When Georgia learns truths, she also must once again face the question: If this is the way of the world, do you accept it?

And this is probably the question Courtney Summers is posing. Powerful, illuminating, gut-wrenching.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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