As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

September 30, 2010

MOSTLY GOOD GIRLS by Leila Sales, 2010

Mostly Good Girls
The higher you aim, the farther you fall…. It’s Violet’s junior year at the Westfield School. She thought she’d be focusing on getting straight As, editing the lit mag, and figuring out how to talk to boys without choking on her own saliva. Instead, she’s just trying to hold it together in the face of cutthroat academics, her crush’s new girlfriend, and the sense that things are going irreversibly wrong with her best friend, Katie. When Katie starts making choices that Violet can’t even begin to fathom, Violet has no idea how to set things right between them. Westfield girls are trained for success—but how can Violet keep her junior year from being one huge epic failure?
 
Review by Joy Peskin, Executive Editor at Viking Children's Books

When I was fourteen, my best friend got asked out on a date. Instead of being happy for her, I spent the evening in my closet crying. Until that moment, my friend and I were united in many things, including our datelessness. But suddenly everything was changing; suddenly she was changing from a permed, bookish, boyfriendless girl like me into, well, a permed, bookish, girl who went out on dates. Oh, if only there had been a book for me to read about what it’s like when your best friend turns into a person you don’t recognize anymore, a book like Leila Sales’ Mostly Good Girls, I might have felt better. Because in the end, don’t we often read books to know that someone else—even a fictional someone else—went through whatever crappy thing we are going through, and they lived through that crappy thing, thus we can, too?

Mostly Good Girls is the story of best friends Katie and Violet, told from Violet’s perspective. Katie and Violet attend an elite private school and they are both bright, motivated students. But Violet is the type of girl who has to work for every A, while good grades come effortlessly to Katie. This is just one of the things that begins to crack the perfect shell of KatieandViolet—Violet’s subtle yet simmering resentment of how easy things come to her other half.

Throughout the book, which is told in tasty, bite-sized chapters, Violet’s anxiety to do her best is palpable and relatable, as is her growing confusion with some of Katie’s choices. It takes a while for Violet to catch on, but she ultimately realizes that while she has been pushing herself so hard to accomplish everything on her Junior Year To-Do List (examples: #1. Get a perfect score on my PSATs. #6. Maybe become famous for something so that people everywhere will know and respect me?), Katie has been drifting off in another directly entirely.

Early in the book, Violet thinks, “Katie and I are similar in so many different ways that I sometimes forget we come from different backgrounds.” But by the book’s end, Violet realizes she and Katie aren’t really so similar after all, or anymore. When we have defined ourselves by our sameness to our friends, and those friends change, what does that do to our own identities? Can friendships based upon similarities still thrive despite—or because of—differences? Why do we strive so hard to succeed, and what, in the end, is the meaning of success? These are a few of the questions raised by Leila Sales’ funny, smart, thought-provoking debut novel.

Market: Young Adult Fiction
Language: Mild
Sensuality: None
Violence: None
Mature Themes: One scene of (completely not glamorous) teen drinking.

Book formats:
Mostly Good Girls (hardcover)
Mostly Good Girls (kindle)

To learn more about the author, go here: Leila Sales

Disclaimer from Joy: I know Leila Sales. Okay, let’s be completely honest: I know her pretty well. I see her every day. We work together. But that’s not why I wrote this review. I wrote it because Mostly Good Girls is an amazing book, and reading it made me very happy, and I want others to read it and experience that same happiness.

1 comment:

Amy Finnegan said...

This book sounds so good that I've already ordered my copy! Also, Joy, it's so great to hear an editor talk so highly about a book, because editors - by trade - are the pickiest readers on the planet!