Apparently I read books by Courtney Summers before parent-teacher conferences. This was never something I planned, but I read Cracked Up To Be last spring before portfolio conferences and here it is, the night before I spend 10 hours telling parents all about their kiddos, and I’m curled up with an ARC of Some Girls Are.
I stopped a third of the way into the book and sent her an e-mail: “I find myself terrified to stop reading & equally terrified to continue.” Then I paced the NTB for a full 30 seconds before picking up the book again.
When I came up for air the second time (it had gotten dark out and I needed to turn on the lights) I realized why this book is like a punch in the gut.
Courtney’s writing is honest. It’s vivid and so tangible it seems like you can reach out and touch the characters’ pain. Or maybe their pain reawakens an echo of your own. High school isn’t pretty, it isn’t easy… no matter how pretty the students are or how easy Those Few make it seem.
As I immersed myself in Some Girls Are I couldn’t escape connecting with the characters or seeing strains of myself in them – all those things that mean the book is well-written and absorbing. But, if you think seeing yourself in these characters is a good thing, you haven’t read the book yet.
Which is not to say anything bad about the book – it’s gorgeous and brilliant in its realism. Summers is, as always, my hero in her ability to show the things I’d rather not look at, think about, reflect on. She’s genius at it.
Thank God for her.
…And remember those times in high school when making it from your locker to homeroom was too exhausting. Not because you were up late studying, but because you didn’t know what you’d find there.
Remember the time in bio freshman year when you flipped through a friend’s FiveStar organizer to write her a note and found the “Things I hate about Tiffany” list. And because you were too busy remembering how to make your lungs function, you just shut it and velcroed the tab across the cover and never read it, or confronted her, or did anything but feel guilty and wonder who else had seen it.
Remember the times when you weren’t the victim but the tormentor, because the guy you crushed on liked someone else, so it felt like your right to hate her. More than right, it was your duty. What’s so great about her? Did you hear…?
We were or are or will be part of that system. And as I turned pages and saw myself in those words, I marveled that any of us make it out unscathed. I wonder how deep the marks go.
And as I sat there wondering, my e-mail blinked with a new message. It was from My Court, the one of my high school days, not the one who authored this book. My Court had stumbled upon a blog I’d written back in April about life and high school and such.
Her comment made me smile. Made me remember the day we spent throwing handfuls of loose glitter at my bedroom ceiling, while laughing so hard we couldn’t stand up, and singing lines from “I’ll back you up” when we caught our breaths again. Some of the glitter stuck to the clouds we’d painted, but most of it ended up on us. We went out to dinner like that, giggling as we shook our heads and freed cascades of hair and sparkles.
It is a perfect memory. High school has those, too.
And on the nights when I used to lay on my bed staring up at the ceiling wondering what my future held and how I’d ever get there, I could see those clouds and smile.
High school is hard. High school is painful. But if you’re really, really lucky, you don’t just graduate with scars and marks, but with those perfect memories and friends who can look you in the eye and sing comfortably out of key:
Do what you will, always
Walk where you like, your steps
Do as you please, I’ll back you up
THAT is what I wish for all real-life Reginas, Lizs, Michaels, Jeanettes, Martas, and even the Karas and Annas. I want everyone to have someone who sees them with glitter in their, hair, paint on their face, in old, ratty clothing and suggests they go out to eat at the most teen-frequented restaurant in town. And I want them all to agree without hesitation– because they want to – because they’re loved, respected, accepted, and safe.
Everyone deserves that. If I could bottle it up and distribute it with hugs, I would.
Since I can’t… I’ll do the next best thing: tell you to read Some Girls Are (release date January, 5, 2010) and let it change you.
I fell during my run today. One stride I was rushing forward, chattering to St. Matt about an amazing book I’d read yesterday and admiring the foliage; then I was launched into sideways Superman dive, grating over leaves, roots and twigs. I’m sure it was very graceful.
I popped up, shook my limbs, shrugged at a suddenly pale St. Matt, and resumed my run and the conversation: “And it was so consuming; I couldn’t turn pages–
He interrupted to point out that I’d given him yet another heart attack and to repeat: “Don’t look at your leg. No. Don’t. I said DON’T look at it.”
I have a weensy issue with blood. Okay, it’s a major issue. Bruises, however, inspire macabre fascination. My new hobby is watching my legs turn purple.
But it isn’t painful; it isn’t even unexpected. I fall A LOT, especially on a trail run – and trail runs in the autumn are their own brand of treachery: tree roots and holes stay hidden under a layer of leaves, just waiting for their opportunity to send me sprawling.
Yet, despite four (is it five?) sprained ankles, countless scrapes, and bruises from indigo to lilac, there’s no keeping me off the trails.
A straight out, straight back road run? One where I’ll know each step that takes me away and brings me back to the start? Boring.
I prefer runs just like how I prefer my books: full of the unexpected. They’ll have a start, they’ll have a conclusion, but the moments in between should be an adventure.
I want my heroine to dare to turn left at the fallen log, just to see if it is a real path. I want her to start running up a hill whose peak is hidden by trees – not knowing if she’ll have the stamina to reach the top, or even how far away it is. I want split second decisions: stay by the stream or turn toward the covered bridge. And challenges: fording puddles, striding through mud, sliding up a rain-slick hill. She should stop short to avoid spider webs that appear inches from her face, pause to pat the occasional dog sharing her path, and be willing to get her feet wet and her legs muddy. Scratches from that pricker-bush incident should be worn with pride.
It’s these books that stay with me; the ones where I can’t predict what the hero or heroine will do next. The ones whose characters take risks, do the unexpected, but never forget to notice the beauty along the way. They fall, get back up, continue their adventures.
These books fill my head with questions and what-if’s. They linger in my mind and are book-bullied into others’ hands. These are the books that leave marks on me long after The End.
But unlike trail runs… the marks don’t require band-aids.
It feels weird not to check Twitter before bed.
This the tweet I almost posted last night – before I remembered that in order to do so, I’d have to log-in to Twitter.
Immediately afterward I debated whether I was allowed to read e-mail notifications of DM’s. (Can I?)
This could be a long week.
It feels weird.
My mind automatically forms sub-140 character soundbites:
Who was the idiot who decided orange and cranberry belong in the same muffin?
Confession: I have officially eaten more Revision Skittles than we distributed to trick-or-treaters.
Has anyone read GIRL IN THE ARENA? I like the story, but am struggling with the lack of “”marks.
How will I share my excitement about the new Jesse McCartney song “Body Language”? Or confess my St. Matt-mocked crush on him? Or share how I caught St. Matt humming the tune after I played it on repeat for an hour. *gigglefit*
The worst part, however, will be not knowing what’s going on with everyone else. So if you could all e-mail me regular updates of your day, that’d be great. I won’t even limit you to 140 characters.