Unlikeable Heroines

16 03 2012

This is the final post in C-Summers Week, a weeklong celebration of Courtney Summers and her titles.

When people read books, they want to relate and engage to the main character, feel with them, understand their emotions and feelings. But sometimes an author cleverly switches around that feeling, that expectation. Two of Courtney Summers’s books deal with this unlikeable heroine: Cracked up to Be and Some Girls Are.

Most readers of these two books acknowledge that they did not particularly identify with the heroines at at times, hated them. But somehow, they continued on with the story and started to understand the character more.

Is it easy to make this work?

Oh, absolutely not.

Let’s break the word “unlikable” down into its parts, as we did earlier in the week with the word edgy.



definition from dictionary.com

(of characters in literature or drama) tending to evokeantipathetic feelings; “all the characters werepeculiarly unsympathetic” [syn: unsympathetic[ant:appealing]

difficult or impossible to like

So, yeah. That’s not easy to do: create an unlikeable protagonist who people begin to care for.

HOWEVER, the word “unliekable” also brings on other questions. Like: do characters need to be likeable? Do we need to relate to them? Does fiction suffer when we have unlikeable characters?

Hard questions, folks.

And it’s harder to create unsympathetic characters, but more authors are beginning to create them.

What do you think?

Do characters need to be likeable?


Fall for Anything Review

15 03 2012

This post is part of C-Summers Week, a weeklong spotlight on Courtney Summers and her titles.

From the author of Cracked Up to Be and Some Girls Are comes a gripping story about one girl’s search for clues into the mysterious death of her father.
When Eddie Reeves’s father commits suicide her life is consumed by the nagging question of whyWhy when he was a legendary photographer and a brilliant teacher? Why when he seemed to find inspiration in everything he saw? And, most important, why when he had a daughter who loved him more than anyone else in the world? When she meets Culler Evans, a former student of her father’s and a photographer himself, an instant and dangerous attraction begins. Culler seems to know more about her father than she does and could possibly hold the key to the mystery surrounding his death. But Eddie’s vulnerability has weakened her and Culler Evans is getting too close. Her need for the truth keeps her hanging on…but are some questions better left unanswered?

 Out of all of Courtney Summers’s titles, this book seems to be considered the least favorite, judging from the Goodreads reviews I’d read. Cracked up to Beand Some Girls Are are more popular. And comparing this book to the first I read — Cracked think I like Courtney’s more “edgy” style better. But I did enjoy this book and it’s a sweet contemporary with a strong mystery. 

Eddie is reeling from the death of her father, after he killed himself by jumping off the roof of an abandoned warehouse. She just wants to understand: why? Why would he kill himself when he had such a great family, when he found inspiration in everything he saw, and loved his life? As she ponders these questions, Culler Evans, a former student of her father, says that he knows the answers. Eddie is attracted to Culler and decides to go on the hunt with him, as they examine photographs that her father took and try and find the meanings that he left behind in them. But Culler is getting too close, and Eddie doesn’t know what to do — and she wonders, are some secrets better left unknown? 

The grief factor, with books written about grief and how they affect characters, certainly isn’t new, but Summers managed to take a tried-and-true plot and make it interesting. I will admit that I figured out the plot to this book. I figured out what would happen in about 100 pages and the big shocker was, frankly, not a shocker to me. But I still enjoyed reading the book. The plot was exciting and intense, with the mystery interesting enough to have me keep turning the pages. And though the shocker wasn’t surprising to me, I still felt bad for Eddie when she discovered the secret. The ending was another great one (I commented on how much I liked the ending in my review for Cracked up to Be ) and I definitely think that Courtney has a talent for writing realistic, hard-hitting endings. This story is a lot quieter, with not as much intensity, and a lack of the “mean girl” character that Summers is known for, but I still enjoyed the read. Also, the title is perfect. 

The characters….I did relate to Eddie 🙂 She was very easily relatable, with worries about her father and anger towards her mother’s friend Beth, who was condescending towards her. Culler I really disliked. But I think that was the point, to make readers feel uncomfortable around him and realize his secrets before Eddie did. I still cannot figure out if the relationship the two had was insta love. Eddie said she was attracted to him, but I wasn’t sure that she was ever in love with him, but simply attracted to the secrets and opportunities he offered her. However, if she was in love with him, then she certainly did become in love with him very very fast. The rest of the characters were interesting, from her mother (who could have become a cliche, the depressed mother, but was interesting) and the aforementioned Beth (who turned out to have a very interesting softer side). 

Now, like I mentioned, this is a quieter book. It’s not quite as gritty as the rest of Summers’s books. Since grittiness is Summers’s element, I was curious how her writing style would be influenced by that change. Her style is still easy and interesting to read, with fluid sentences and pared down to the esentialls. Her writing did seem to struggle a bit, without the gritty factor that makes her writing so strong, but she was still a strong writer. 

This was a strong read, if I enjoyed Summers’s grittier titles more, but it’s still an interesting mystery. Recommended for anyone who likes realistic fiction, gritty titles, and stories about grief. 

Four stars.


Waiting on Wednesday: This is Not a Test

14 03 2012

This post is part of C-Summers Week, a weeklong spotlight on Courtney Summers and her titles.

Release Date: June 19th 
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually wantto live. But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside.                  When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?

Doesn’t this sound AMAZING? It’s gotten great reviews and I am so, so excited to read it.

Edginess and YA

13 03 2012

This post is part of C-Summers Week, a weeklong spotlight on Courtney Summers and her titles.

First, I’d like to start off this post by asking: what is “edgy”? Edgy in itself is extremely hard to define. The dictionary definition is this:

.daringly innovative; on the cutting edge.
thank you to dictionary.com for the definition
There are a few other definitions, but they don’t apply to the context we’re putting “edgy” in. So the dictionary definition, the one that we would break out if we needed to be formal, would be that edgy is daringly innovative, on the cutting edge (of society, of the world, of whatever metaphor you would like to put here).
But what exactly does that mean? Society has changed the term “cutting edge” as well — now it’s almost like you’re so far ahead you hide in the distance, a la the nerd stereotype. And then there’s the other way to look at cutting edge, like dangerous — people plummeting themselves of cliffs and hurting themselves, which at the same time is another thing that people think of when they think of “edgy” books.
And you can see already, just by looking at the dictionary definition, that defining edgy in itself is confusing and complicated.
And what about when you think of “edgy” books?
There are many YA books coming out that are considered “edgy” for their subject material, like drinking and cutting and other materials that are considered “intense” and hard to read. Teens have responded well to these types of books.
On many blurbs, I’ve seen books called “edgy and intense” or “edgy” or “gritty and edgy” and any form of “edgy” alone or combined with another word in a similar connotation to “edgy”. It makes for a good descriptor, but what does it really mean?
Are these books truly on the cutting edge? Are the truly changing society and how we look at books? Some yes, some no. Then are these books truly edgy?
When publishers call books “edgy” it seems like they are heading more towards the second idea of what an “edgy” book is: the second term: the dangerous part. Many “edgy” books, by a simple search on Goodreads, are full of many intense topics: drinking, swearing, cutting, sex, all kinds of tough topics that aren’t easy to write about or read about, either. 
A good example would be Courtney Summers, and here’s why I’m getting to the reason why this post was scheduled for C-Summers Week. Courtney’s books have been defined as “edgy”, every single one of them, both by the publisher, review journals (think School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly) and reviewers on sites like Goodreads. But her books have also been described as “realistic” and “intense”.
So are edgy books simply realistic? Teens do drink, have sex, and smoke. So is “edgy” simply a silly term, that should be replaced with “realistic?” Should we simply get rid of the term “edgy” for all? Some think that it is a silly and unnecessary term.
It’s a hard question to answer, and “edgy” is very hard to define. But there are many, many great “edgy” books coming out, and we need to either define what “edgy” means or trunk the term, it seems. What do you think “edgy” is? How should we define it? Or should we simply throw the term away, and never use it again?

Cracked Up To Be Review

12 03 2012

This review is part of C-Summers Week, a weeklong spotlight of Courtney Summers and her titles.

Perfect Parker Fadley isn’t so perfect anymore.  She’s quit the cheerleading squad, she’s dumped her perfect boyfriend, and she’s failing school.  Her parents are on a constant suicide watch and her counselors think she’s playing games…but what they don’t know, the real reason for this whole mess, isn’t something she can say out loud.  It isn’t even something she can say to herself.  A horrible thing has happened and it just might be her fault.  If she can just remove herself from everybody–be totally alone–then everything will be okay…The problem is, nobody will let her. 

 I’m a huge fan of contemporary fiction. And as I have started to read more young adult books, people constantly recommened Courtney Summers’s books. I looked up the descriptions for the books online and read a few excerpts from Courtney’s blog, decided I was interested, and began the long hunt for a copy of the book. 

I searched everywhere — bookstores, libraries, and at online stores. Either all of Courtney’s booms were checked out — a telling sign — or it was too expensive for me to buy the book. I was getting pretty frusturated. Finally I went to visit a large library a few hours from my house, a library I frequent fairly often enough, and decided to go in pursuit of Courtney Summers’s books. AND VOILA! In the SUMM section of the library, there were two of Courtney’s novels: her debut Cracked Up to Be and her third novel Fall for Anything . I was disappointed that I couldn’t find Some Girls Are , Courtney’s second and most highly acclaimed books, but I was glad I’d found two of her books and I went home happy. 

I wasn’t disappointed. 

Parker, frankly, is a b*itch. She blows off her friends, hates her teachers, tries to harm herself. This change is sudden, though; she’s always been Miss Perfect, nicknamed “Perfect Parker” Fadley, and now she’s ruined herself with a danger of not graduating and has to constantly visit a counselor and the principal. A new boy, Jake, finds himself interested in her, but Parker simply pushes him away. She seems to be falling into a deeper and deeper spiral, and no one can understand why or how it happened. But there’s a reason; Parker’s holding a terrible secret — something terrible has happened and it may be her fault. 

This kind of plot — girl hiding terrible secret — is one that I’ve seen before, but Summers manages to carefully twist and turn the story so that nothing ever becomes predictable. It’s a interesting, very gritty ride. The ending was probably my favorite part of the entire story. Some stories can seem sugarocated, perfect endings that seem too perfect. She throws all those ideas out the window, ending up with a dark, gritty ending that makes perfect sense — and is very realistic — and still holds a faint glimmer of hope. I loved that, because it really drove home the fact that not everything is perfect, that the most realistic things aren’t always the best. The secret revealed was interesting, as well, but I did wish that it would have been revealed earlier in the text, then there could have been more exploration of the aftermath/repurcussions of the secret being revealed. Still, a strong, gritty plot with a fantastic ending. 

Now, onto the characters. Parker is not…. likable. That’s pretty much agreed upon by all readers of this book. You tend to dislike her, get mad at her because of her poor choices and how she treats the people around her, and at times I felt myself relating more to Jake and Parker’s friends then our heroine. However, there is something that made me connect with her and made me finish the book. I did connect with her somehow, and I related to her problems and how she didn’t know how to react — even as I didn’t agreewith how she acted. The other two main love interets were interesting. I liked Jake and Parker’s relationship, how flawed and realistic it was, and how it paralleled to Parker and Chris’s relationship. Becky was a character I didn’t think I would sympathize with, but at the end I did sympathize with her motivations and insecurities. Really, my feelings on the characters could be summarized into this: Didn’t think I’d sympathize with any of them, ended up sympathizing with them. 

Courtney Summers’s writing is just what the back blurb says. Gritty, edgy, and intense. This isn’t any kind of “fake edgy”. No, no, no. She doesn’t pull any punches. The characters talk about sex, take drugs, drink, and act like real teenagers. The writing is smooth and clear, parsed down so only the true, important thoughts shine through. I’ve read many reviews saying that the edginess of Summers’ books is what makes them so interesting and unique, and I have to agree with that statement. Her book is edgy, interesting, and so intense I had to put it down a few times. She’s definitely a master of the edgy contemporary. 

I know that there are plenty of reviews urging people to read Summers’s books, but I will happily join that crowd. If you are interested in contemporary, gritty contemporary, and realistic books this is a definite must read, and it’s easy to see why this won the Cyblis Award and why Summers has been so well acclaimed. 

Four point five stars. 

Courtney Summers Week!

11 03 2012

Yes, you heard that correctly. This week is Courtney Summers week, where I will be featuring her books and spotlighting her newest title, THIS IS NOT A TEST.

To prepare yourslef for the week, I’d check out courtney’s website. See you soon!