Perhaps one of the highest compliments a reader can pay an author is the immediate desire to be best friends with a book’s main character. Such is the case with Violet Tunis, the 16-year-old protagonist of Leila Sales’ witty debut novel, Mostly Good Girls, which portrays Violet’s everyday shenanigans at a swanky all-girls prep school in Boston.
Of course, Violet already has a best friend, Katie, whose wealth, beauty and perfect score on the PSATs don’t even make Violet jealous—that much. While Katie has many envious natural talents, Violet must pride herself on the little victories. For example, when Violet’s safari theme is chosen for the junior yearbook, her parents beam with pride. Violet notes, “My parents are proud of me no matter what I do, be it suggesting a yearbook theme or getting a B on a math test. They have incredibly low standards.” At other times, it is about the small battles fought but not won, such as trying to steer the school’s literary magazine staff away from really bad eating-disorder poetry. (“Hunger is a sin / As bad for you as a shark fin.”) But if not for Katie, Violet wouldn’t have nearly as much fun as she does, like when the two friends try to make a fortune selling Harry Potter tours to the younger students.
Unfortunately, when Katie meets Martin, her new boyfriend-having status creates a rift in the girls’ friendship. As Violet says, “Out of all the reasons I might envy Katie, in a list of things she had that I constantly worked for, Martin did not even rank. I wasn’t jealous of Katie for having Martin. If anything, I was jealous of Martin for having Katie.” Suddenly, Violet and Katie’s long-standing friendship is tested, and Violet wonders about her own identity without her best friend.
Told in first-person point of view, each chapter is like a short story unto itself, infused with a sharp wit and wry humor. Anyone who has ever been one half of a best-friend pair will easily identify with Violet’s typical high school drama, and Sales’ laugh-out-loud portrayal of life at an all-girls school makes this tale about friendship incredibly fresh and lighthearted.