Today we’re revealing the awesome, evocative cover of Eva Darrows’ forthcoming novel Dead Little Mean Girl, in which gamer geek Emma contends with a terrifying new stepsister. Quinn is a vicious mean girl, and Emma is desperate to escape her…until Quinn unexpectedly dies. What Emma discovers after she’s gone is that there was more going on behind her stepsister’s queen bee front than she imagined. The book takes a look beyond labels, at the real girls hidden behind them.
Here’s Darrows on the lazy stereotyping that inspired Dead Little Mean Girl.
I remember watching the movie Mean Girls and laughing a lot. There’s a lot to laugh about; Tina Fey, for all her faults, can be a funny, funny woman. I remember walking away from the movie giggling about Cady (Lindsay Lohan) outsmarting the Plastics. I remember Regina George’s (Rachel McAdams) “Burn Book”—a book full of rumors, secrets, and gossip she used to keep control over her high school—and thinking, “Man, that’s terrible. I’m glad I never knew anyone like her.”
I thought the whole movie and premise clever. I thought, “Hey, I’d like to watch that again” and told a bunch of people to go see it.
It took about a month for the “Hey now” to set in, and when it did, it wasn’t a stellar feeling. For all the pretty feminist things Tina Fey has done in her lifetime, portraying a teenaged girl as a social terrorist for no other reason than it’s a day ending in Y? Not so cool, Tina. In fact, REALLY UNCOOL. Go back and watch the movie. Regina George has no agency. None. She tortures her school because _______. When we’re left to fill in the blank (because the only answer offered by the film is “she was given too much freedom by her mother”), we return to the same tired explanation—some girls are born that way. Some girls are just mean. No reason for it, we’re just “like that.” Predisposed to evil, I guess? Because really, when your mean girl lacks a reason for her cruelties, you’re buying into the notion that girls come equipped with a dash of terrible that doesn’t warrant explanation or exploration—we can call a mean girl a mean girl, abhor her, and then crush her for her wicked ways.
It is, if you want to follow the rabbit down that hole, that whole “saddling women with the sins of Eve” thing. There doesn’t need to be an actual reason for toxic behavior, it’s just there because women are prone to awfulness. According to Tina Fey’s writing, Regina George was mean because her mother let her run loose, and girls given too much freedom will clearly…use their freedom to hurt other women?
What’s so feminist about that?
The answer is it’s not. In fact, it’s pretty misogynistic to assume there is a bracket of girls who destroy their peers for the simple joy of destruction. A sociopath is, by definition, “A person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience.” So what we’re saying, by buying into this “girls are baselessly awful” thing, is that high school girls are sociopaths. Seriously, reread that definition, think about our portrayal of mean girls, and make the connection.
Sociopaths exist. They’re not our teenaged girls.
Mean girls are, more often than not, hurt teenagers. They’re teenagers who are angry or scared. They’re acting out because something is wrong and a need is not being attended to. Except what happens is, instead of looking for the cause of a girl’s vitriol, we slap a mean girl label on her and make her less of a person in our minds. We unpeople her. It’s okay to ignore her suffering, because this girl created suffering. “Some girls are just like that” after all. Let’s gloss over it. Let’s push her away and stop listening. Let’s be disgusted by her awfulness and not peel back the razor-laden façade.
By perpetuating the mean girl stereotype, we’re ignoring girls who are wearing their wounds on their sleeve. We’re ignoring girls clearly telegraphing that something is broken and needs fixing. Bullying is wrong. Being mean is wrong. But so, too, is not trying to help a teenager who’s hurting so much she’s willing to lay waste to the world around her.
Enter Dead Little Mean Girl.
Emma is an everygirl. She’s nerdy, she likes to read, she likes video games and keeping to her modest social circle. When new stepsister Quinn comes into her life, she’s faced with not only a mean girl, but a mean girl under her roof. Straight from the book, in Emma’s own words:
Quinn was a mean girl. We’re not talking “mouthy” or “occasionally moody” or “sharp around the edges.” We’re talking “full-throttle mega-mean girl with acid spit and laser eyes.” That’s awful to say about the recently departed, but you had to see her in action to understand. If she didn’t like you, she took insidious glee in decimating you until you were a twitching pile of pudding beneath her stilettos.
Emma falls into the trap many of us fall into when faced with an angry young woman—she dismisses her as born mean and therefore beyond redemption. It isn’t until Quinn’s untimely death that Emma scratches the surface of Quinn’s persona, asks questions that really ought to have been asked sooner, and by then, it’s far too late. Quinn’s gone.
I wrote Dead Little Mean Girl because I believe every girl has a story worth hearing, the bullied and the bullies alike. I wrote it because I don’t want to see wounded young women unpeopled by a label, and right now, with our portrayal of mean girls in media, we’re doing exactly that. We’re failing an entire gender by perpetuating the notion that “some girls are just born mean.”
No, they’re not, and if you think they are, hopefully Dead Little Mean Girl will change your mind.
Dead Little Mean Girl hits shelves in March 2017, and is available for pre-order now.