Cover of Mostly Good Girls, featuring a girl, from the thighs down, wearing a skirt, gray stockings, and high heels

About the Book

Title: Mostly Good Girls
Published: 2010
Swoonworthy Scale: 4

BFF Charm: Yay!
Talky Talk: Straight Up With a Twist of Sass
Bonus Factors: Lists, Lit Mag, Coolidge Corner, Harry Potter Tour
Relationship Status: Soul Sisters

The Deal:

You guys, I’m kind of freaked out right now. Because some how, some way, using who knows what kind of X-Files technology, Leila Sales traveled back to 1995, got INSIDE MY BRAIN and used all of the crap qualities she found there to create a character named Violet Tunis. I am not even kidding. Violet and teenage me are THE SAME PERSON.

Ok, well, I’m kinda kidding. But only about the X-Files technology part (and just in this case, not in general. Because THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE). From the moment I first met Violet, I felt like I was reading about my own high school life in all of its nerdtastic, boyfriend-less glory. The main difference is that I went to public school, and Violet goes to an all girls private school, so at least she has an excuse for her lack of dude action. And even though she spends a lot of time pining after the gorgeous Scott Walsh (he attends the boy’s school, natch), Violet is actually pretty happy with her life–she’s got cool, supportive parents, oodles of brains and Katie Putman, the best friend a girl could ask for. The two bffs are actually pretty different–Violet’s parents are both professors, whereas Katie’s socialite mom won’t stop begging her to deb–but they have that kindred spirit understanding that withstands even the greatest of differences. Well, that is, until Katie begins to rebel against the expectations of her family and the “authoritarian regime” of the school. Faced with the thought of losing her best friend, Violet must ask herself those angst-riddled questions that always come with growing up: Will this friendship last? Am I becoming who I want to be? And most importantly: WILL I EVER KISS A BOY?

BFF Charm: Yay!

Yay BFF Charm

Well, considering my recent admission that Violet and I are basically the same person, OF COURSE I want to be besties with her. She’s awesome! And if that’s a backhanded way of complimenting myself, ALLOW ME TO CONTINUE DOING SO. Seriously, though, Violet’s actually cooler than I was in high school, mostly cos she’s not a goody-goody pansy. Sure, she’s smart, and she follows the rules, but she’s not afraid to let her charming eccentricities show. And even when she makes mistakes, particularly with Katie and a situation I shall not spoil for you, they just made me love her even more, because I FEEL YOU VIOLET. And unlike some of my fave YA heroines, she’s just a regular girl–she doesn’t have super powers; she doesn’t suddenly attract a handsome, mysterious boy; she doesn’t start a revolution or survive a life-threatening situation. She’s just trying to survive high school, and I think that’s something that all of us can identify with.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

This book isn’t really about boys, although Violet spends a considerable number of pages thinking about them (as do we all, sweetie. As do we all). It’s more about the challenges and rewards of adolescent female friendship, and I found Sales’ treatment of that theme to be incredibly refreshing. With that said, it wouldn’t be YA without at least a little bit of boy awkwardness, and the few times when Violet actually does get to interact with the male gender are not so much romantic as incredibly hilarious. Sure, it’s not necessarily swoon-inducing, but I gotta give Sales some points for really nailing that dreaded teenage disease known as IFCSINFPS (the Inability to Form Coherent Sentences In Front of the Preferred Sex). Violet’s encounters with Scott Walsh were particularly entertaining, given that her imagination always outpaced her communication skills. Here’s an example of her inner monologue, taken from the scene where she finds out that Scott’s girlfriend, Julia, has left him alone on New Year’s due to the death of her grandfather:

If I were Julia I would have been like, “So sorry, family, the death of Grandpop is really sad–but I’m sure he would have wanted me to stay in Boston this holiday season, with Scott Walsh.” And the ghost of my grandfather would have appeared just to confirm, “Yes, my dear granddaughter. Stay with Scott Walsh. For he is God’s gift to womankind.”

AMEN GRANDPOP.

Talky Talk: Straight Up With a Twist of Sass

I can’t believe that Leila Sales managed to write in the exact perfect YA tone in her V. FIRST BOOK. If I didn’t love her so much (more on that later), I would want to FACE PUNCH HER. I adore everything about how this book is written–the authentic (but not too authentic) dialog, the straight forward details, the !!! of Violet’s inner freak-outs and, most especially, the snarky humor. LORD this book made me cackle like an old toothless gypsy woman. Sales has a real talent for deadpan one-liners, as you can see in these two examples:

Mrs. Putman drove us to school in her SUV, all the way telling us what knockouts we were, how the boys had better watch out, etc. Mothers live in a little fantasy world where that’s true.

Emily can sleep on command. She can sleep standing up. She can sleep during every free period, every bus ride, every class when a teacher doesn’t show up. During the course of any given school day, she racks up a bonus two hours of sleep, easy.

As far as I’m concerned, Emily Ishikawa is the luckiest girl in my grade.

Seriously, what’s Emily Ishikawa’s secret?!!

Bonus Factor: Lists

A person's hand, writing a list of items in a notebook with a pen

Who doesn’t love making lists? Esp. when they’re high school lists, not boring adult grocery store blah blah blah lists. Violet occasionally creates a list to sum up a situation, and they never ceased to amuse me. But the REAL reason I listed this as a bonus factor is because of the sex experience list. And… I’ll leave it at that.

Bonus Factor: Lit Mag

As I’ve previously mentioned, I was the editor of my high school literary magazine, and in a reveal that will surprise no one reading this review, SO IS VIOLET. And she has the same reaction I did towards the mountains of bad, goth poetry submissions: MAJOR EYE ROLL. While reading the scenes involving the mag, I alternated between deeply empathizing with Violet and laughing my ass off at her attempts to convince her fellow staff members that some poetry SHOULD NOT BE PRINTED. EVEN IF IT’S ABOUT ANOREXIA. Without further ado, an example from the book:

I want to be thin
Because that means I win
I must be thinner than my kin
Thinner than my sister, Lynn
As thin as my skin
(Which is yang to my yin).

Hunger is a sin
As bad for you as a shark’s fin.
I would laugh and grin
If only I were thin.

Oh high school poets, bless your little hearts.

Bonus Factor: Coolidge Corner

The corner of the Coolidge Theater, with a red art deco sign that says "Coolidge"

In an early scene in the novel, Katie and Violet meet up with some boys (OooOOoo!) to go see a movie at the Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Boston. When I got to that part, I literally GASPED OUT LOUD because that’s where Jenny and I met for the first time!!! And that theater is actually the whole reason we started being friends!! I realize this is a v. personal bonus factor but WHO CARES YAY FRIENDSHIP!

Bonus Factor: Harry Potter Tour

Screenshot of Hermione, Harry, and Ron, wearing their robes and talking outside of Hogwarts

So, this has nothing to do with the actual theme park (I WANT TO GO TO THERE), but it’s hilarious and great and one of my favorite parts of the book and no I can’t tell you anything else except for the fact that Violet and Katie are geniuses.

Relationship Status: Soul Sisters

This book and I are, as my mother says, like two peas in a pod. We’ve exchanged clothes, make-up, books, friendship bracelets, bff charms; heck, we would’ve exchanged blood by now if I didn’t consider that a super gross and arcane ritual left over from the time before people figured out diseases. Everything this book says and does resonates with me, because I feel EXACTLY THE SAME WAY. We get each other’s sense of humor, and we understand each other’s pain. We pass notes in class filled with private jokes and spend our weekends strategizing about how to talk to boys (then collapsing into giggles when we utterly fail). This book gets me, and I can’t wait til we can go to college together and then share a tiny loft in NYC and then get married in the same year and then move onto the same street and live side by side for the rest of our lives (cos that can happen, right? RIGHT?).

P.S. I am still OVER THE MOON about the fact that I actually got to hang out with Miss Leila Sales AND Miss Rebecca Serle (the lady who interviewed FYA for HuffPo!) in NYC last weekend! Along with Henri and their friend Katie (who actually introduced them to FYA in the first place, cos she’s fabulous like that), we met up in Williamsburg for fancy cocktails and lots of SUPER CONVO. I instantly fell in love with all three of them, and OMG WE’RE GONNA HAVE A SLUMBER PARTY DURING BEA! Oh and for the record, I read Mostly Good Girls right after BEA in May, long before I met Leila, so don’t think my review was in any way influenced by our burgeoning friendship. HOW DARE YOU BESMIRCH MY JOURNALIST INTEGRITY.

Katie, Leila, Sarah, and Rebecca standing together against a brick wall

(L-R): Katie, Leila, Sarah, Rebecca. LU LADIES.

FTC Full Disclosure: I got a free copy of this book at BookExpo. I received neither cocktails nor money in exchange for this review.

Sarah lives in Austin, TX and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.