Mostly Good Girls by Leila Sales

31 01 2012

Sixteen-year-old Violet is doing her best to juggle the academic, social, and extracurricular stresses of junior year at an elite prep school, in this fresh, funny debut novel.

 So this was a book I kind of avoided reading. I had heard good things about Leila Sales, and her second book Past Perfect has been lauded. But I guess I was nervous, mostly because the book seemed to fall under the category of “chick lit” and because I had seen similar stories like this before. 

The book isn’t necessarily groundbreaking, but it’s a fun, sweet read with a strong voice. 

The plot is nothing groundbreaking: a story about two girls, Katie and Violet, who are in Westfield Academy together and have always been BFF’s. Katie starts to rebel, dating a burnout and trying to get drunk and take Ritalin, while the shier, more quiet Violet becomes terrified of her. I’ve seen this plot before, and the themes the book expresses aren’t anything new either. The book is written in kind of a weird, meandering vignette style, and the first few chapters are mostly stories about teachers and girls’ sexual activities. A lot of people might be let off by this strange style, since the chapters are more vignettes than chapters, and might give up on the book early on. The real plot doesn’t begin for quite a few chapters, and when it does Katie’s misadventures go full steam ahead. You become used to the style after a while but it is jarring at first. The plot in an essence is also a bit predictable; I wasn’t surprised at what happened with Scott or Katie’s choices. It is a cute, quick read, though, and the plot was interesting enough to hold my attention. 

The characters were pretty good, not a group of people that would particularly stick in my mind. There seemed to be a lot of people at the school introduced — the people on the Wisdom literary magazine; the yearbook committee; Scott’s friends, etc etc. It was a lot to keep track of. Violet had a very, very strong voice. She sounded like a real teenage girl, an impressive feat. She was very humorous and cracked jokes, swore, and had realistic responses to situations. The book is really quite funny, and that alone made me up a few stars — I laughed out loud a few times. Katie was a good character, if I didn’t completely understand her motivations. I did relate to her and understand her feelings for the school and the community. I didn’t relate to her feelings to so desperately need a boyfriend, however. Scott I felt disinterested from, and I felt like I only was supposed to care for him because it was constantly pushed: OMG, OMG, Scott is so hot, OMG OMG. I did like the way the author ended his story and it made sense. The rest of the characters on the lit mag were good, though some of them seemed stereotypical “mean girls”. As I stated before, it was also hard to keep track of them. 

Now, the writing. Sales has a very conversational style, and the book constantly reverts from the past to the present as Violet recalls vignettes and memories she shared with Violet, her classmates, and Scott. Her writing was very fluid if choppy at times, and the style of the vignettes didn’t really start to take effect (and make me interested enough) until the middle of the book. Her writing was very good for a debut novel and it seems like she has lots of room to improve. 

Mostly Good Girls wasn’t a lifechanger, and it didn’t break any boundaries, but it was a cute, interesting read with a hilarious voice and a good read for anyone interested in friendship stories and contemporary/chick lit novels. I had more difficulty rating this one, as my issues with the plot were major, but because I did enjoy the novel and Violet’s voice I’ve decided to mark it as 3.5 stars. 

Three point five stars (3.5).

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