Violet Tunis has a plan for her junior year at the prestigious Westfield School. This year isn’t just going to be different, it’s going to be perfect.
This year she is going ace her PSATs, get straight A-minuses (or better) in all of her classes, and improve the school’s literary magazine to the point where it doesn’t completely embarrass her. She’s going to pass her driving test, get famous, and do many awesome projects with her best friend Katie. She will also make Scott Walsh fall in love with her.
Unfortunately for Violet, things don’t go according to plan. At all.
Instead of having a perfect junior year, Violet has the exact same problems she always has struggling to keep up with Westfield’s high academic standards (and competition) and failing miserably at sounding like a sane person when talking to boys.
On top of that, the literary magazine is a disaster and her editorial board is possibly filled with illiterates. Her driving teacher is mentally unstable. And her best friend Katie might be losing her mind.
Everything always comes so easily to Katie. She makes being pretty and smart and successful look effortless. So why is she suddenly making all of the wrong decisions? And if even Katie is falling apart, what hope does Violet have? More importantly, if Violet doesn’t have Katie by her side, does any of it matter?
All Violet knows for sure is it’s going to take a lot more than her Junior Year To-Do List to get things under control in Mostly Good Girls (2011) by Leila Sales.
Mostly Good Girls has a lot going for it. Violet is a quirky narrator with a voice that is almost as distinct as her sense of humor. Interestingly, this book is also the first one I have ever read where the teenagers talk exactly like I did as a teenager.*
Violet and Katie and their friend Hilary are all well-developed and come alive on the page. They are all so real, so unique, and so exactly like I was a teenager. It was refreshing to be able to see my own experiences reflected in this crazy, hysterical book.
My love for Violet, Sales’ beautiful writing, and the book’s wonderful setting is almost enough to make me love this book unconditionally. But I also wanted more from it.
The beginning of the novel is, simply put, genius–filled with witty snapshot-like chapters about Violet’s life at Westfield. Snapshots that, I might add, could have been from my own high school. The actual plot, the plot you’ll see on the book jacket, doesn’t come up until about halfway in. At that point, for me, the story lost some of its verve.**
While the book remains authentic and charming I probably would have been just as happy with more snapshots about Westfield and less about Katie’s crisis. That might be me.*** The ending offers some semblance of closure although a lot about Violet’s life does remain up in the air.
Mostly Good Girls is an exceptional debut from a masterful author. Leila Sales is definitely going places and Mostly Good Girls is definitely a must read for anyone looking for an antidote to the vanilla, artificial high school experiences so often seen in books and movies.
*I have never before, and probably never will again, read a book where a teen character says, “Indeed.”
**Part of that might have to do with my never having the “Violet and Katie” kind of best friend experience. Who knows?
***Or maybe it’s just that at that point the plot diverged to something different from my high school experience and what I really loved here was that the book was so very similar to my high school experience.
Possible Pairing: Nothing by Annie Barrows, A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg, Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey, Where I Belong by Gwendolyn Heasley, And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard, Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough, After the Kiss by Terra Elan McVoy, Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin, Easy A (movie)
Exclusive Bonus Content: The design for this book is really worth mentioning. Cara E. Petrus did a great job on the jacket which features a fabulous plaid print and a striking pair of legs with shoes that are lovely (if I could wear heels I would need to hunt them down for myself!). Does the cover relate to the plot? Maybe not. Is it still awesome? YES! I also loved the layout of the text with memorable chapter titles and a typewriter-esque font.