From Inanna publications, a self-described feminist publisher, comes Good Girls, the first in a planned series of “daring and feminist-first” young-adult novels following the lives of two 15-year-old girls attending an “elite” all-girl Boston prep school.
Allie, a preppy Ivy League–bound overachiever and captain of the school’s debate team, is shocked and dismayed when she discovers the identity of her new debating partner. Octavia, a haughty cool girl from Montreal sent to the school as punishment for throwing a booze-filled party at her father’s country house, is more interested in rolling a perfect joint than in academics.
But Octavia’s studied disdain turns out to be a shield for her low self-esteem. After just a few brief words of encouragement from the school’s guidance counsellor, who recognizes her intelligence, Octavia is skipping parties to bone up on the pros and cons of Turkey’s inclusion in the EU. Team Allie and Octavia seem unbeatable until the eve of the big debate, when an overzealous don discovers a bottle of vodka in Octavia’s dorm room and gets her suspended from the team. The bottle had been a gift from Octavia’s boyfriend, Marcus, who showed up unannounced and aggressively expressed his desire that they consummate their relationship.
While co-authors Shalta Dicaire Fardin and Sarah Sahagian undertake some mild querying of female roles in heterosexual relationships, it’s not at all clear what makes Good Girls especially feminist or daring. The novel is sardonic but astonishingly uncritical about the trappings of class, wealth, and brand-name consumerism that surround its characters. “I don’t do ‘the ground,’” complains Octavia’s father when he has to come get her without his private jet, while Marcus, who does do the ground, travels by Range Rover. Meanwhile, Allie’s mother, a Christian Lebanese immigrant who teaches at a women’s liberal-arts college, rants obliviously from the confines of the family’s forest-green BMW SUV about the cost of Allie’s uniform being enough to clothe an entire African school.
Careless, convoluted writing and awkward attempts at humour (“Her mom was roughly thirty seconds away from screaming at her louder than a Fox News anchor interviewing a Democrat”) compounds the problems. Good intentions, inept execution.