Review: What Goes Around

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: What Goes AroundWhat Goes Around: Two Books In One: Cracked Up to Be & Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on September 3, 2013
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 480
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
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four-half-stars

Courtney Summers fans are in for a treat! Two of her most critically acclaimed titles bound together for the price of one. In Cracked Up To Be, 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, is that a horrible thing has happened and it just might be her fault. In Some Girls Are, climbing to the top of the social ladder is hard--falling from it is even harder. Regina Afton used to be a member of the Fearsome Fivesome. And just like the other members of this all girl clique, she was both feared and revered by the students of Hallowell High... that is until vicious rumors about her and her best friend's boyfriend start going around.

Courtney Summers’ This Is Not a Test turned out to be one of my favorite books of 2012, though I never would have guessed it. Thus, I was thrilled to get a review copy of What Goes Around, which conveniently contains the two Summers books I have yet to read. I do not know what I’ll do with my life now that I have no more Courtney Summers. All the Rage needs to hurry up.

Cracked Up to Be

Courtney Summers has shown up in a bunch of my top ten lists and I’ve been talking her up as one of my favorite authors. Until now, though, I’d only read two of her books, so there was always the chance that I might fall out of love with her writing (this is a book nerd perpetual concern…or maybe it’s just me that worries about this). On the first page of Cracked Up to Be, my worries that I wouldn’t love this book vanished. Summers writes dark, honest, heartbreaking books that make me feel many things.

Cracked Up to Be will be, for most readers, a love it or hate it sort of book. Everything hinges on the reader’s relationship with Parker, the heroine. That’s the case in many first person narratives, but even more so with Parker. She’s…a bit of a handful, put tactfully. Being direct, Parker’s a total bitch. Some readers are going to hate her and be unable to see past that. Parker makes high school hell for a lot of people by saying incredibly rude things right to their faces.

you suck

I, however, immediately bonded with Parker. Let’s not delve too deeply into how this reflects on me. Her sarcasm and joy at making other people uncomfortable by not reacting the socially acceptable way in conversations delighted me. Not only that, but she’s a really refreshing YA heroine, in that she doesn’t quite fall into any stereotypes. She comes closest to being the mean girl, but she’s not Regina George by any means. For one thing, Parker will say all the bad stuff to your face. Plus, Parker doesn’t want to be popular.

nauseous

Parker used to be popular, dominating the school academically, socially, and captaining the cheerleading squad. She used to be perfect in every way. While she was never nice, she wasn’t the acerbic antisocial grouch the reader now knows. Something happened that sent Parker into a spiral of self-destructiveness. When Cracked Up to Be opens, Parker has her last chance to get back on the straight and narrow or she will not be graduating with the rest of her class, due to her failure to turn in any assignments and frequent instances of drunkenness at school.

especially bitchy

The storytelling method used here is a fairly common one, with everything building up to the big reveal of precisely what happened to cause such a large alteration to perfect Parker. However, I do think that Summers makes excellent use of a fairly common structure. She weaves the flashback throughout the novel, starting with small snippets that grow longer as the chapters pass. This creates the sense that, much as she tries to hold her memories of that night at bay, she cannot hide from her demons forever.

i'm a bitch

Because of that night, Parker’s desperately trying to force people to stop loving her. My heart ached for Parker and the way she convinced herself that she both didn’t want and didn’t deserve anyone’s love. Underneath that incredibly prickly shell is a girl in an incredible amount of pain. The story arc with the dog she had her parents adopt, hoping that the dog could replace her in their affections, is particularly heart-wrenching. It’s the dog more than anyone that opens her heart up to love and trust again, much as she tried to keep everyone out. Her confusion about what she really wants is also highly apparent in her interactions with Chris, her ex-boyfriend, and Jake, who has a crush on her even though she’s really mean to him. She pushes them away, but freaks out and pulls them back when she feels like they’re really leaving. This girl needs so much help.

anger

The only aspect of Cracked Up to Be that didn’t work for me was what happened to change her. I can’t go into details outside of the spoiler tags, but the simple version is that I can’t really believe she would have kept that secret. View Spoiler »

I loved Cracked Up to Be. It’s daring, honest and emotional, precisely as I expect Courtney Summers’ novels to be.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Favorite Quote:

Everyone should know—there’s no such thing as a decent human being. It’s just an illusion. And when it’s gone, it’s really gone.

Some Girls Are

Hmm, while I definitely still really enjoyed Some Girls Are, I don’t think it’s as strong of a novel as Cracked Up to Be. I mean, high school is awful, but I’m not convinced it’s actually THIS awful. Courtney Summers has out mean girled Mean Girls.

Once again, Summers goes with a popular heroine, a mean girl. Where most YA authors go for the outsiders, it’s awesome that Summers does her own thing. Regina, however, is much less sympathetic than Parker, who was clearly dealing with serious issues when she went off the rails and became somewhat evil. Regina has issues, most definitely, but she seems to have created them through her own bitchiness, so it’s hard to be sympathetic about that, at least for me.

whatever

Regina was the second in command of the popular girls of Hallowell High, ruled over by Anna. All of that changes when Anna’s boyfriend Donnie tries to rape Regina at a party. Freaked out and upset (and very sympathetic at this point), she manages to escape his clutches and goes to Kara, her nemesis, and asks for help. Kara advises her to keep quiet about the attempted rape, lest she lose Anna’s friendship. Then Kara tells Anna that Donnie and Regina had sex, so now Regina’s out and Kara’s in.

Those Bitches

Simply cutting Regina out of their circle isn’t enough, though. Let the bullying begin. This is where my issues with the novel came in. Some of what happened seemed really possible, but other aspects really didn’t. For example, at one point, everything in Regina’s locker is covered in ground meat gone bad. Come on now. I’m supposed to believe that the popular kids got a bag of rotten meat into the school and were willing to get their hands dirty to coat Regina’s stuff with it? They would have smelled like rotten meat themselves ALL DAY. Also, how did the administration have no clue anything was happening when rotten meat is hard to miss and clearly not an accident? The bullying went too far in several cases.

mom, pick me up

However, I still got my Courtney Summers feels, particularly from the way the rape went down and Anna’s treatment of her thereafter. The way that girls are slut-shamed after rape or, in this case, attempted rape is sickening. Also powerful and emotional was Regina’s blossoming but fragile relationship with Michael, a boy whose reputation she had helped to ruin. It was fascinating to watch her realize how much her friendship with Anna had damaged her but also that she couldn’t get away from that mindset.

i'm sorry that people are so jealous of me

Some Girls Are is a tough read about bullying, rape and popularity. If you ever want to feel better about your high school experience, this will do it. I hated high school, but it wasn’t anywhere near this bad.

Rating: 4 stars

Favorite Quote:

My life has become the art of putting things between me and the people who hate me. Yes, I’m afraid to be alone.

Who would hold that against you in high school.

The omnibus as a whole is super convenient, because it has twice the Courtney Summers for the same price. Pretty hard to pass up, considering how awesome her books are.

TL;dr – Book in a GIFfy:

teen years a hell

11 responses to “Review: What Goes Around”

  1. Dahlia Adler says:

    I love both of these books so much. CRACKED UP TO BE is pretty eternally in my top 5, and she’s probably my #1 instabuy author. Always so happy when other people share my CS love! And I’m pretty much foaming at the mouth for ALL THE RAGE. Is it 2015 yet??
    Dahlia Adler recently posted…Top Ten Bookish-Related Things I Am Thankful ForMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      WHY IS 2015 NOT NOW? I will be bothering the people at St. Martins endlessly basically. MUST HAS. Seriously, I love her books. Even the ones that were less for me were still really good. And This Is Not a Test and Cracked Up to Be are in my top books list, though I don’t think I could narrow anything down to five. O_O

  2. I’m yet to meet a Courtney Summers book I don’t like. It takes a real talent to make unlikable characters compelling.

    I also had a few issues with Some Girls Are – and like you, it was the meat in the locker thing. It was a little TOO far and I couldn’t believe there was no intervention from the school – I mean surely someone would have bitched about cleaning that up!

    2015? Seriously? Gah!
    Kat (AussieZombie) recently posted…Review: The Outside by Laura BickleMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Dude, yes. Courtney Summers should write the textbook on making books about unlikable characters fascinating. She has it down to an art.

      FOR REALS. I mean, I can totally believe schools being stupid, but YOU DO NOT MISS RANCID MEAT. I mean, HELLO.

  3. I love it when characters are different and I do appreciate the fact that Parker is honest about her opinion. If someone says mean stuff in your face, you can at least say something back. I didn’t want to see the spoiler, but it’s a shame that her change wasn’t so believable. Some girls are sounds a little less interesting, because I do need to be able to understand a character. After falling in love with ‘This is not a test’ I hope to read some more of her work soon 🙂
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted…Review 218. Leila Sales – This song will save your life.My Profile

  4. Thank you SO MUCH for pointing out the rotten meat thing! I thought I was the only one who had a huge issue with that. Especially when Michael was just like, “I cleaned it up.” WHAT? He cleaned it up HIMSELF? With what cleaning supplies? And also, doesn’t the principal notice “whore” or something like that written on her locker at the beginning of the book? He notices that, but not the meat? That’s convenient! I also didn’t get the ending. I was left wondering why she didn’t do that much earlier in the book, since it would have solved the problem. Well, I guess that’s why she didn’t do it earlier–there would have been no book. But it could have at least been addressed, like “Why didn’t I think of this sooner?”
    Stephanie Parent recently posted…Cover Reveal: Forever Loved by Deanna RoyMy Profile

  5. I want to say something engaging and constructive and meaningful, but all that’s coming to mind is a scream of “COURTNEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEY” and fangirlish squeals I don’t know how to type out. She’s amazing. She just IS and I hate All The Rage won’t be out for at least another year (she’s still writing it and on the sixth draft due to many struggles).

    She’s probably one of the only authors I never want to meet in-person because I will not know how not to embarrass myself.
    Ashleigh Paige recently posted…Review: Horizon by Alyson NoelMy Profile

  6. Jenni says:

    Gah I am so happy I am not alone in the “waiting for All The Rage because I need my Summers fix” boat now. I freaking loved both of these books, I didn’t have the problem with Some Girls Are that you did, but I totally get where you’re coming from. Maybe it’s because in my high school Spanish class the super popular kids actually DID put a freaking dead FISH in some kids backpack, that day was horrific. I love how Courtney can write characters that I hate and yet I find myself feeling so bad for them by the end of the book, maybe it’s because we all have a bit of ugly inside of us.
    Jenni recently posted…Crank ReviewMy Profile

  7. Lyn Kaye says:

    Brown is a great Mean Girls author. I tend to like this genre!
    Lyn Kaye recently posted…Book Review of Shadowlands by Kate BrianMy Profile

  8. Ellis says:

    I like that Summers writes characters that aren’t typically likeable. Regarding Parker, I think there’s a difference between being awful to people (a la Regina George) and being awful because you’re done with socially acceptable, because current society’s rules suck balls sometimes.

    I have the same concern! It worries me when I talk about someone as my favourite author when I’ve only read one or two of their books. I’m always convinced it will all fall apart at one point. I have trust issues.

    “Summers writes dark, honest, heartbreaking books that make me feel many things.” For future reference: this is what I like in books. I’m sure Forbidden has the same qualities but it isn’t just Sanderson and sexy books.

    Oh god, she turns up drunk at school? Part of me thinks that awesome and part of me is mortified. I need to read this asap.

    “Parker’s desperately trying to force people to stop loving her.” I can relate. I really need to read this. I’ll come back for the spoiler later. LOVE the quote. Love love love. Oooh, that is just perfect.

    Haaaa, she’s actually called Regina? Wow. Kara. WOW. Okay, that’s it. Fictional high schools officially freak me out. We weren’t always nice when I was still in high school, but never did we pull this kind of shit. I really hope this doesn’t happen irl.

    The ginger kid! I can’t remember what show it is from but I used to watch it all the time. I distinctly remember not crushing on him. (I have a thing for redheads.)

    I like the title of this bundle. I have decided that even though I haven’t read any of her novels yet (I own them all, but I haven’t read them), Courtney Summers is my idol, precisely because she chooses to be unconventional. As Savannah would say: Bad. Ass.
    Ellis recently posted…Review – Breaking the WrongMy Profile

  9. YOU USED SADIE GIFs fro Cracked Up to Be! AH! I think I’ll agree with you on Cracked Up to Be. I’m not sure, but since Sadie is my favorite character from Awkward, I guess that says the same thing about me as it does for you liking Parker in this. So I don’t think hating Parker will be an issue for me when I finally get around to reading Cracked Up to Be this year. At least I hope not. And yeah, I’ve heard that the girls in Some Girls Are are VICIOUS.
    Blythe Harris recently posted…Reflecting on 2013 and looking forward to 2014!My Profile

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