“In high school, you don’t get to change. You only get to walk variations of the same lines everyone has already drawn for you.
So I should just make the best of it.”
Sometimes its so hard to talk about a book when the issues they choose to tackle is a concept that is simultaneously foreign and familiar. I was never bullied in high school. My memories of that period in my life were of bad acne, awkward hair lengths and bra-related embarrassments. It wasn't pleasant but it wasn't a nightmare either. But with so much material out there about that legendarily awful and singular experience that is high school where there are mean girls, drug addled horny jocks, nerds, loners and floaters, I'm starting to wonder if I should feel cheated out of something. Is this the norm and I'm outside the curve yet again?
Some Girls Are sets itself apart by over-imagining the horrors of high school with prison yard politics where the students are the convicts, serving their time, dealing with the boredom and isolation of that age by being the worst possible versions of themselves. "It doesn't matter", what one character says, the things they put each other through while confined in the hallowed halls of the academe. It doesn't matter because it's all a game, it's good practice, for when they get their parole via a diploma to be released in a bigger, more ruthless prison yard.
Shank or get shanked. Be someone's bitch or be the biggest and best bitch around.
“You always said none of this matters, and you’re scared.”
“It doesn’t matter,” she says tightly. “But it’s good practice.”
I have never hated anyone so much in my life. I never will again.”
This is Training Day. And it's both horrible and fascinating all in one breath.
In Hallowell High, there is a pecking order. Queen Bee Anna Morisson rules with her best friend Regina Afton at her right and the rest of the Fearsome Fivesome at her court. The story opens in a party, with Anna passed out on the floor while her boyfriend, Donnie, attempts and fails at raping Regina. She escapes to tell Kara (one of the lesser Fivesome) in confidence what Donnie tried to do. The next day, she finds her locker spray-painted with WHORE, and Anna accusing her of having sex with Donnie while she was unconscious in the room.
What followed was Regina's adventures on getting a taste of her own medicine as the Fearsome (now) Foursome exacts her the very same kind of justice she used to enjoy doling out to the nameless Gen Pop of Hallowell
High Women's Correctional Facility.
If Speechless was bubble gum pop with shirtless boys running and singing on the beach, Some Girls Are was proto-death metal, complete with half naked girls getting sacrificed in front of a guy dressed as a half-human half-goat hybrid. Not to make Speechless out as shallow (because it SO was not) but both these books tackle the sensitive issue of bullying where Hannah Harrington presents it with clever garnishes and exotic flavors of wit and humor, while Courtney Summers chooses to feed you the same message raw, rare, and extra bloody.
In Summers' high school hallways there is kicking, pushing and punching. There are bloody noses and bits of teeth flying off. Weight issues, apathetic adults and every possible form of abuse you can imagine: drug, alcohol, verbal, psychological, emotional. The concept of "taking the high road" and "rising above it all" is as obscure an idea as dial-up internet. Up until a certain point, she wrote with a confident edge and grit that refuses to let you go. It sometimes got too much for someone as jaded and cynical as me.
It was horrifying, it was terrible, it was amazing, it was awesome.
Maybe as we grow older we gradually lose that extra lobe in our brain that refuses to acknowledge any alternative outside fighting back and that was what made this so very fascinating to me. Where these people find the energy, motivation and creativity to punish each other over what is essentially hearsay exhausts me. The planning alone? Actually buying meat from the market, watching over it for two days as it rots outside so animals won't eat them, then actually decorating someone's locker with it? Thirty-something me struggles to even get out of bed from time to time, for crying out loud.
I've never respected and reviled a heroine as much as I did Regina. She enraptured me with her self-destruct mode, her adamant need to exact the better revenge to those who deserve it just as much as she herself deserves to be hurt back… it's like watching someone set fire to herself. It's impossible to look away.
My heartbeat slows to nothing and then, when I'm sure I'm dead, it thumps once. Twice. Three times. Steady and even. I'm still here.
Summers writes with a swagger that hypes the bigger picture as you read on. And perhaps that's where this faltered for me. More than the rushed, nonsensical ending, it was my disappointment that I've created a dozen worse scenarios in my mind that its either I'm the most evil and twisted person I know If I were Anna I would've probably switched Regina's antacids with diarrhetic pills or this just got too lax and lazy towards the end in terms of creativity.
Still this is one book I definitely want a sequel to. I foresee a very interesting and awkward Class of 2010 Reunion Party. That or one where everyone's all grown up and forced to recollect and atone for all their evil misdeeds in high school by the Jigsaw Killer.