Tuesday, February 8, 2011
A Few Chicklit Treats: Mostly Good Girls and Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters
My two favourite girl books this month have a lot in common. They're both smart, fun, and captivating. They feature girls born to wealth and privilege, girls who are savvy, well-educated and have high aspirations. But just because they're well-dressed and ace their SATs doesn't mean we're not rooting for them--they're all strong, involving protagonists. There isn't a whiff of the typical rich girl/mean girl caricature lots of teen chick-lit indulges in here. If you're in the mood to read about girls who like and support each other despite their growing pains, you're in the right place.
Mostly Good Girls is narrated by Violet Tunis, a junior at Westfield School (an exclusive, private girl's academy) and longtime best friends with Katie Cabot. Violet is very goal-oriented and works hard to maintain her never- -quite-perfect grades. She edits the school literary magazine to boost her chances of getting into a good university. She's a straight-and-narrow kind of girl, and one of the things that draws her to Katie is Katie's slightly wild streak--Katie's into doing "projects" that seem like a good idea at the time, but end up getting them into hot water (like her plan for Violet and Katie to get rich by becoming pool sharks rather than babysitting, or her plan to offer new students a spooked-out "Harry Potter Tour" of their uptight private school). Over the course of the book, Katie starts to rebel against her over-privileged life, and Violet becomes more and more bewildered as her best friend starts to seem like a stranger.
Although the theme isn't particularly uproarious, what I found made Mostly Good Girls stand out for me was the humour. Sales fashions her book out of short, anecdotal chapters and gives Violet a wry, funny voice that kept me turning pages ("Awesome speeches, guys," I said in my last official lie as editor in chief."). One of my favourite chapters takes place at an editorial meeting for The Wisdom, the school literary magazine, where a truly awful poem about anorexia is being considered for publication. (I want to be thin/Because that means I win/...Hunger is a sin/As bad for you as a shark's fin/I would laugh and grin/If only I were thin") Violet attempts to hint that the poem, let's be honest, *totally sucks* while trying to maintain an air of impartiality. Meanwhile her staff offer kindly but obtuse critiques such as "I like the way she rhymed every line." Sales had me snorting with laughter as Violet becomes increasingly pointed about the obvious badness of the poem, which of course ends up being unanimously selected for publication. The whole scene is wickedly, deliciously funny. Mostly Good Girls is full of little scenes like this which add so much richness and personality to this story of a struggling but ultimately strong friendship.
Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters I liked for so many reasons. The plot is intricate and ingenious, and involves the matriarch of the Sullivan family (known as Almighty to her children and grandchildren) announcing that she will cut the family out of her will unless the family member who has mysteriously displeased her delivers a confession and apology in writing by New Year's Day. Norrie, Jane and Sassy each suspect that they may have aroused Almighty's displeasure (Norrie by standing up the handsome date Almighty has selected for her Cotillion and running off for a rebellious weekend in New York with her true love instead, Jane by publishing a tell-all blog called myevilfamily.com, and Sassy by killing Almighty's husband). Each writes a detailed confession in which it becomes clear that their sins are as complex as they are themselves. I'd love to have any one of these sisters as my real-life friends, which is, I think, a sign of a successful chick-lit story.
Here's a fun trailer for Mostly Good Girls: