Canadian author Courtney Summers is an auto-buy for me. I know that I am guaranteed a terrific story with compelling, albeit often prickly, characters and excellent writing. I’m the Girl is Summers’ latest novel and the story treads somewhat familiar ground, but as always Summers scratches beneath the surface offering up a timely story about power, abuse and privilege.
Sixteen-year-old Georgia Avis is untethered. She lives with her brother Tyler in a rinky-dink town called Ketchum. Their mother has died of cancer and Tyler, 30, has moved home to take care of her.
At the beginning of the novel, Georgia is hit by a car. When she comes to, her eye catches a flash of pink in the field beside her. It’s the body of 13-year-old Ashley James, daughter of a local deputy sheriff. “At first I wonder if we both got hit by the same car.” But it is clear that something much worse has happened to Ashley.
The accident happens out near Aspera, a private members-only club. It is actually Cleo Hayes, owner with her husband Matthew, who finds her on the side of the road. For as long as Georgia can remember, she’s wanted to be an Aspera girl, “moving through the resort, turning heads like I was meant to”. Instead, when the Hayes’ agree to hire Georgia, despite the fact that her mother, who had worked at Aspera before her death, had betrayed them, she discovers that she is going to be nothing more than a “glorified fetch.”
Aspera values beauty and Georgia is beautiful, but she doesn’t quite believe it. That makes her a target. There is something decidedly unsavoury, sinister even, about Aspera, although Georgia doesn’t see it as quickly as readers will.
As Georgia tries to navigate her new reality at Aspera, she begins a tentative friendship with Ashley’s older sister, Nora. Nora is determined to find out who killed her little sister and all the clues seem to point back to Aspera.
I’m the Girl is a thriller, for sure, because you’ll certainly turn the pages in an effort to discover who killed Ashley. But this is also a book that explores our relationships to our bodies and image. Georgia comes to understand that she is beautiful enough to wield a certain power over the men she encounters even though, as she tells Matthew, “I like girls.” But Georgia is too young not to realize when she is being manipulated and the consequences of her naiveté are often brutal and heartbreaking.
Other books by Courtney Summers: This is Not a Test, Cracked Up to Be, The Project, Sadie, Fall For Anything, All the Rage, Some Girls Are