By Brandon Smith
On May 20, 2023, local book lovers were able to tune in when New York Times Bestselling Author Courtney Summers was interviewed by the Library Speakers Consortium about her latest book, “I’m The Girl.”
Hosted by Brandon Adler, the event was held virtually. Viewers were able to register through their local libraries. Hundreds of libraries nationwide participated in the event, including the Kent District Library system.
The interview was streamed through YouTube Live, but registered attendees were provided a link to watch on the LSC website where they were able to comment and ask questions live. Attendees who also registered in advance were given the opportunity to write questions for Summers ahead of time, which Adler asked following the interview.
“I’m The Girl” ($18.99, 352 pages) is a novel that tackles the difficult topic of how young women can struggle to feel beautiful not only in the eyes of others, but to themselves in a world where their beauty is dictated by the patriarchy. Summers tells the story of 16-year-old Georgia Avis who discovers the body of 13-year-old Ashley James on the road to Aspera, a resort for the wealthy and influential that hires beautiful girls to serve them. Georgia’s quest to become an “Aspera Girl” leads her into facing a world where she can soar, but only as high as the ones in control will allow, and with a dire price to pay.
“I think of myself as operating in a low level state of anger at all times,” said Summers. Summers explained that she was influenced by the Epstein case and the contrasting power and powerlessness of women like Marilyn Monroe. She said that she wanted to ask her audience if they were really okay with a world that exploits the vulnerable.
“I think we often blame victims over their abusers for not realizing how bad the world is,” Summers said.
The book received some backlash from adult readers for its mature themes. While the book is marketed as Young Adult, it contains some graphic depictions intended to show the autonomy that Georgia has over her own body and to leave the audience feeling uncomfortable.
When Adler brought up the backlash, Summers responded that she wanted to push the message: “Don’t Look Away.” She wanted to present a young girl being groomed by the adults she looks up to without realizing that she’s being groomed.
“It’s not holding back, and adult readers are really struggling with that,” Summers said. “…It is so easy to look away.”
Some have said “I’m The Girl” feels like the spiritual successor to “Sadie,” Summers’s 2018 release and Edgar Award winner. Similar to “I’m The Girl,” “Sadie” tells the story of a girl chasing a man who took advantage of her little sister before murdering her. Summers talked about how difficult it was to write both books because she had to do research that made it difficult to sleep at night.
“I don’t think it should be easy to write a book like this,” Summers said.
“I’m The Girl” is currently available from Wednesday Books. Audio and ebook editions are also available for checkout via the Libby app.