Read an eARC from NetGalley
Content warning: statutory rape (graphic), child sexual abuse, kidnapping, car accident, vomiting, stalking, blackmail
Georgia Avis is a queer girl who wants one thing: to be one of the girls serving the rich and the famous as an Aspera Girl. She collects her modelling photos from But on her way home from collecting some headshots, she stumbles upon the body of a 13-year-old. What then starts is a passionate pursuit of the girl George is meant to be while the house of cards falls apart to reveal a rotten core that feels all too real.
Bleak in the way that exploring the way power and wealth take advantage of girls’ search for validation, this book is a search for autonomy starring deeply flawed, messy, compelling girls.
If you’re at all familiar with the Jeffrey Epstein scandal and stories from his survivors, this book has echoes of it in its set-up. There is a powerful man and his partner who have massive wealth from vague sources. They make promises and push the envelope in terms of trust at every opportunity. It is disturbing and deeply upsetting.
Repeated throughout the book is the notion that the world belongs to men, and women can try to wrangle what control they have from that system, but eventually it backfires. It’s cruel, brutally honest, and the journey to the ending is heart-obliterating.
This book takes place in the same slice of contemporary fiction as Sadie (there’s a nice reference about a third of the way in). The exploration of sisterhood definitely makes it a companion piece, with Nora’s search for what happened to her younger sister Ashley shares some echoes. But it’s a side plot that illuminates what could happen to George, even as she convinces herself that she’s different.
George is a girl who likes girls, but the plot isn’t about that. It does add a layer of stakes and another boundary between her and the man who runs Aspera. Every time it feels that George gets some autonomy, it’s another two steps backward. The perspective here is so firmly George’s. The depiction of her trying to use her beauty as a tool is uncomfortable when you (and others in the text) remember that she’s only sixteen. She is a child who was forced to grow up quickly after losing her mother and essentially having to be raised by her brother. There are perfectly reasonable reasons for the adults in her life to not share the gritty details, but Summers manages to make George’s frustration so familiar.
All you want throughout the narrative is for George to be right, that her beauty is power and the world is hers, but this is a Courtney Summers book, so prepare to have those hopes shattered.