Courtney Summers (The Project) is known for pushing boundaries and exposing the cruel realities young women face. I'm the Girl, her eighth YA novel, is no exception. This part murder mystery, part thriller, part queer romance is a brutal, raw account of truths behind power and privilege.
Sixteen-year-old Georgia "George" Avis finds the body of 13-year-old Ashley James, the deputy sheriff's youngest daughter, who was raped and murdered. When Ashley's 17-year-old sister, Nora, shows up at George's house wanting to be told everything, George is pulled into an amateur investigation. Meanwhile, George begins a summer job at Aspera, a grand private resort whose members use it as a retreat to "escape themselves and the world's prying eyes." She aspires to be an "Aspera girl"--a select group of beautiful young women who attend to the "nation's most elite"--but reluctantly settles for being "a glorified fetch" working at the digital concierge. As George sinks deeper into this privileged, wealthy world and develops feelings for Nora, they get closer to finding Ashley's killer, and she will discover that the life of beauty and power she's always longed for is far more dangerous than she thought.
Through George's story, Summers illuminates the tension between the haves and the have-nots, whether that's determined by beauty, money or power. Summers hammers home the point that in Western society beauty can make someone the most powerful person in the room, but those who set the standard for beauty are the true holders of power--challenging readers to stop accepting "the patriarchy's dream" and help dismantle it instead. George's naiveté, which draws her into damaging situations, makes her sympathetic, and the events of the novel all the more harrowing.
At the center of this thriller is a murder mystery that Summers unravels piece by piece, parallel to the events taking place around George. She makes the case that the paths of these two very similar young women could've easily been swapped, adding to the novel's visceral dread and unease. A bright spot: the slow-burn romance between George and Nora. Their imperfect relationship evolves naturally and brings some levity to an otherwise dark and heart-wrenching novel. Devastating yet honest. --Lana Barnes, freelance reviewer and proofreader
Shelf Talker: Courtney Summers's eighth YA novel--part murder mystery, part thriller, part queer romance--is a brutal, raw account of truths behind power and privilege.