Trigger Warning: this review and novel handle serious in depth discussions of sexual assault and pedophilia.
In her newest novel I’m the Girl, Courtney Summers takes us through a raw, real, and often painful look at what the 1% can truly get away with. I will be completely honest with you, from the very first page, Summers lets us know that this novel is not for the faint of heart, and much like the author I will not be shying away from discussing the very disturbing topics covered in this book. This is your final warning to continue reading at your own risk.
The novel opens and we meet our main character Georgia Avis, a 16 year old girl. It’s very late at night and Georgia is making her way home alone. With her is a bag stuffed full of photos she has just retrieved from a man that told her that he could make her a model. We find out on that very same page that the photos were not innocent. To make matters worse for her, we also discover that she recently stole a lot of money from her brother, Tyler, who is her sole guardian after the loss of her mother due to cancer. Georgia stole Tyler’s money to pay to have these photos taken, which put the pair very behind on the bills. Now, with the photos now finally in her possession, her anxiety starts to calm on her walk home. Her calm is short lived, as she comes upon the mutilated body of a young girl. Consumed by the scene in front of her, Georgia realizes too late that a car is approaching her from behind . It slams right into her, sending her and her photos flying.
Georgia wakes up in the hospital with only a broken arm, and the memory of the mutilated young girl she found. The girl was Ashley James, the 13 year-old beautiful blonde haired blue-eyed well-known problem child of the Chief of Police, Justin James. The police question Georgia to try and see if she saw who hit her. Though they soon realize she did not get even the shortest glimpse of the assailant, and is allowed to go home to heal. That is until Nora James, Ashley’s older sister, comes banging down Georgia’s door demanding they team up to work together and find answers about what happened to Ashley. The pair agree to team up and start their investigation with Chloe Hayes, the woman who found Georgia after she was hit.
Chloe is the wife of Matthew Hayes, the owner of the high-end Resort/Country Club Aspera. Aspera is a mysterious club that serves the richest of the rich from all over the world. The club boasts extreme luxury and privacy to their guests, and it is successful in that promise because only its members and staff know what goes on inside of its gates. The club is able to both offer these services and keep their goings-on private by bringing in most of the revenue for the town of Ketchum, and that includes free membership to all the local politicians and policemen. Chloe offers Georgia a summer job at Aspera, and as Georgia climbs up the ranks, she starts to uncover exactly what the club is all about and that is where the truth about what happened to Ashley James bursts open. Just when you think you have it figured out, Summers adds another layer. The more you learn about Aspera the more you will despise it. I will not go into any further spoilers, but if you read the trigger warning, it is not too difficult to guess.
Georgia as the main character can be infuriating at times. She is naive and can also come off as very bratty. I could have that opinion solely because I am seeing her through the lens of a 25-year-old woman who has gone through a lot of what Georgia is, but while reading this book I found myself screaming and pleading with Georgia to make the opposite choice of every decision she made. Her counterpart, Nora, is someone I deeply relate to. She is cold, harsh, and has a chip on her shoulder after everything life has handed her. Nora makes logical choices even when she is acting purely off of emotions. These two personalities balanced each other out perfectly, making a gripping investigative pair.
Aside from this novel being a dissection on the rich and powerful, it is also a lesbian love story. Nora James is an out lesbian and Georgia Avis, while not being out of the closet, is well aware of her queerness. Their sexualities are not at the forefront of the story, but they were also never forgotten or glazed over. Often times when a character is queer, that queerness is entirely what the story is about or it is mentioned but never delved into. Luckily for us, both of these women’s queer identities are fully fleshed out, in a story that is not centered around that identity. The two girls get very close as feelings grow amidst the horrendous atmosphere of the rest of their reality while they investigate the murder of Nora’s sister. As a lesbian myself, the artistry Summers demonstrated as the two girls were subtly falling in love, brought me to tears on multiple occasions. The romantic relationship between the girls was so gentle and kind, and such a beautiful representation of queer love prevailing in the darkest of times.
Before I give you my final thought, you may have noticed that this review is titled “I’m the Girl, Literally” and that is because, my name is also Ashley James, and you guessed it, I am blonde with blue eyes as well. As you can imagine, this book was a bit more difficult to get through. Reading a book where you share the name and physical description to the murder victim is not something I ever thought I would do, especially in such a dark and twisted novel. I can say without a doubt, I will be talking to my therapist about this book.
Overall, I would give this novel a 5/5 star rating. The subject matter is handled expertly and with a rawness you could probably only get from the author of Sadie (which if you have not had the chance to give that novel a read, please do at your earliest convenience). This novel will show you the darkest parts of power and the mindset of the girls tricked into thinking that they can have some of it. If you can stomach the Epstein level subject matter, I urge you to check this new release out.
I’m the Girl by Courtney Summers is available for purchase now at your local independent bookstore or wherever fine books are sold.