About the Book

Title: A Sisterhood of Secret Ambitions
Published: 2021
Swoonworthy Scale: 2

Cover Story:  Garden State
BFF Charm: Meh
Talky Talk:
Gaslight Gatekeep Girlboss
Bonus Factor:  Secret Societies
Relationship Status: Out of the Running

Cover Story: Garden State

Look, y’all! Her dress matches the wallpaper! I joke but I do like this cover, and it was the first thing that drew me to the book.

The Deal:

It’s 1926 and the Society has become a nationwide force, puppeteering the most powerful men in the United States through the women closest to them. What started as tea parties and matchmaking is now a secret society of women – Spinsters, who train as fighters; Gossips, who pass messages through coded recipes; and Wives, who marry the power-players in U.S. politics and business. By staying close to the men running their country, the Society is able to control legislation and politics.

Elsie has trained her whole life to become a Wife, and now she and four other girls have been chosen to seduce a boy named Andrew, who is earmarked to become the next President. Andrew thinks he’s meeting these girls by chance, and has no idea that the girls are in competition to have the most powerful position in the Society.

BFF Charm: Meh

BFF charm with a :-| face

When Elsie gets the opportunity to vie for Andrew’s hand, she doesn’t hesitate. Doing her part to make the world a better place is important to her, and she was sure to let everyone know that. There were times when she erred on the side of preachy, and she was always trying to show everyone that she was a good friend who always did the right thing. But at the end of the day, winning Andrew’s heart was a competition and Elsie wanted to win. Even once she realized that one of her friends ACTUALLY made a good match with Andrew, she continued to cockblock for the “greater good.” Overall, Elsie’s ambition felt like a clumsy attempt to make her seem more complex than she actually was.

Swoonworthy Scale: 2

Andrew is about as exciting as a loaf of stale bread, so there’s not really any romance happening there. But Elsie does catch feelings for a boy named Patch. Unfortch, the romance was melodramatic and a bit insta-lovey. And that’s not even taking into consideration that Patch was a bundle of red flags cobbled together in human form. He was always flying off the handle and clearly had some anger issues that made it super hard for me to find him romantic at all.

Talky Talk: Gaslight Gatekeep Girlboss

Try as I might, I could not connect with the writing here. I hate when a book reads like the teenagers who are reading it need everything explained to them, especially inclusion. There was a lot of heavy-handed messaging and preachy monologues that made it feel like an after-school special, and for all the talk of inclusion, most of the main characters were white. There was SOME representation here, though, including a character figuring out that she was Ace and a trans character (though I’m not sure that was ever explicitly stated).

I think a book like this required WAY more world-building than we’re given. I had a lot of questions that never came close to being answered. Most importantly: WHY ANDREW? It was never explained why this totally unremarkable boy would be President. Which seems like a huge part of the story.

Bonus Factor: Secret Societies

Gathering of men in the movie The Skulls

As soon as I read the description about an all-woman secret society who controls men from the inside, I thought “oh heck yes, that is a great idea.” I love a good secret society!

Relationship Status: Out of the Running

If this book were about to become President, I’d be out of the running for First Lady. I think it fell victim to the curse of a good idea without good execution. Ultimately, the writing wasn’t super strong and the story itself could’ve used a couple more revisions before hitting the shelves.

Literary Matchmaking

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

This FYA fave by E. Lockhart is about a girl who infiltrates her boyfriend’s secret society when she learns that girls aren’t allowed.

Muse (Muse #1)

Brittany Cavallaro’s alternative history book, Muse, also features a secret group of women working to undermine more powerful men.

Ninth House (Alex Stern #1)

If you prefer your secret societies with a collegiate twist, check out Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from Macmillan. I did not receive money or Girl Scout cookies of any kind (not even the gross cranberry ones) for writing this review. A Sisterhood of Secret Ambitions is available now.

Rosemary lives in Little Rock, AR with her husband and cocker spaniel. At 16, she plucked a copy of Sloppy Firsts off the "New Releases" shelf and hasn't stopped reading YA since. She is a brand designer who loves tiki drinks, her mid-century modern house, and obsessive Google mapping.