Tracy Flick Can’t Win by Tom Perrotta

Have you ever wondered how Tracy Flick turned out? In this sequel to Election (and the book that was based on it starring Reese Witherspoon), Perrotta returns to his iconic character 25 years later.

Rather than taking on the world and becoming the first female president of the US, Flick has become an assistant principal of a high school and a single mother. When the principal announces that he’s about to retire, Flick knows she deserves his job, but she has to play the campaign game to get it, which means agreeing to help create a Hall Of Fame, play nice to the School Board and charm a wealthy tech millionaire alumni.

The book is less about the plot than looking at modern, suburban life and the types of people and the attitudes that it encompasses. A lot of people in this book haven’t lived up to their potential, which is a major theme, or to put it another way, the notion that the characters all thought they were special and found out that they’re really just ordinary. There’s also gender and racial diversity, the #metoo movement, patriarchy, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (football concussion syndrome) and internet fame, amongst other things. The book goes for a darkly funny, cynical tone, and it’s a fairly fast read and the chapters are short and flip between characters, giving us insight into different people and how they see life.

It felt a little sad to me that Tracy Flick wound up working as an assistant principal. We get the story as to why in the book, and it does make a lot of sense, but it didn’t completely feel right to me. There’s also a theme of her being abused by teachers in the past, once sexually when she has an affair with her teacher and another time when a teacher throws out ballots so she loses the election. She’s not overly bothered by this, but she also is sort of deeply bothered by this. Maybe. The author seems to be really in the middle about what he’s trying to say with this, or maybe I just didn’t quite get the point he was trying to make.

If you liked the book Election or the movie, and you ever wondered what Tracy Flick would be doing now, then you’ll want to read this, but you can just pick it up and read it if you haven’t met Tracy before. It is funny and dark.

Read It If: you wonder what happened to that jock quarterback you went to high school with, you come from the suburbs, or you were in high school in the 90’s. Tracy Flick for today’s social climate.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for the ARC for review.

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