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Tracy Flick Can't Win

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Having read Tom Perrotta's Election and seen Reese Witherspoon's iconic performance of Tracy Flick in the movie, I had high hopes for Perrotta's novel Tracy Flick Can't Win. But after I read it, I was left wondering -- what was the point?

Fast forward decades later, Tracy is a hardworking assistant principal and single mother. When longtime principal, Jack Weede, announces his retirement, Tracy assumes that she has the principal job on lock. Tracy is also asked to serve on the selection committee for the school's brand new Hall of Fame. Among the proposed inductees is Vito Corleone, the high school's star quarterback back in the day who had a short career in the NFL. As the ceremony comes up, Tracy wonders if the principal job will really be hers or if people are plotting against her. 

All of this makes for a really implausible storyline with multiple characters providing points of view (most of whom seem meaningless). A plot point is brought up (like Vito possible having CTE) and then just disappears. And the ending is so out-of-the-blue it's laughable. The worst of this for me though is that, besides the ambition, there doesn't seem to be much of the Tracy Flick we know from Election. Which again brings me to -- what was the point of it all?

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I had some memory of the book Election when I chose to read this book. As I started to read, I remembered how unlikable the people in that book were.  I wonder how the same story would play now.  I just don’t know about my opinion of Tom Perrota, especially as he writes women.  I spent a lot of my reading time rolling my eyes.  The book was OK.  It wasn’t very aware of the ways high schools and school districts work at this time.  I was hoping to enjoy it more.  It was just OK and not terribly memorable.
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I had not read Election before starting this one and I was a little nervous I would be confused.  However, having a basic understanding of the plot line of Election I felt I was fine without having read it.  

Tracy has moved from student council in high school to the Vice Principal as her career having left law school to help be there for a sick mother.  She dreams of moving up to the Principal position and with the opening being on the horizon is set to show her skillset and form the necessary relationships with key players to secure her spot.

I think the book does a nice job of social commentary and felt very timely.  The school politics felt real and relatable.  There were a lot of characters to get to know and I felt it almost felt like a few too many.

Overall an enjoyable, quick read.  3.5 stars rounded up from me.
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I liked Election, but I loved Tracy Flick Can't Win.  Tracy has grown up and even though there are signs of her maturation, she is still the girl from the author's first book.  There are several stories in this book and even though Tracy is unaware of some of them, she is the glue that holds them all together.  This book is fun because none of the characters are protagonists--they all are a little antagonist (even Tracy), but that is what makes them so likeable and enjoyable.  Reading the first book is not required the gist of the story can be gotten from this book, but I recommend the first, just to see Tracy as a teen and better understand her character  in the second book.
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Tracy Flick has gone back to school. Back to the high school she went to. She had left, to go to law school and then Congress and then the White House. But she had to leave high school to go back home and take care of her mother, and she ended up back in her school. But this time, she is the Assistant Principal. And when Principal Jack Weede announces his retirement at the end of the year, she wants that job for herself. 

Tech millionaire sold his Barky app and decided to take his money back to his hometown. He let his wife design their new house in the suburbs, and he joined the School Board. He meets with Tracy to tell her that she is a shoo-in for the job, but he has an ulterior motive. He has an idea he wants to move forward with, and he could use her support. He wants to set up a Hall of Fame at the school for important alumni. She agrees to back his idea and helps set up a selection committee to come up with ideas for who should be inducted into their new Hall of Fame. 

The committee takes applications and starts vetting the nominees. And what Tracy is worried about is happening—most of the talk is for a former football player. Given things that have happened to her in the past, she is not excited about the idea of letting another football player get all the attention, get all the votes. She can’t let another athlete win just for playing sports. So when Principal Weede nominates Diane, Front Desk Diane, who has spent decades working the desk in the office, helping generations of high schoolers with whatever they need, Tracy is very happy to vote for her. 

But as the months go by, and the job search for Principal turns up no other good candidates for the job, Tracy still can’t relax. Despite all the years she has spent at Green Meadow High School, despite her education and her dedication, even taking over for Principal Weede when he had his heart attack, Tracy feels uneasy. She senses that something is going on, that there is something the Board is keeping from her. That the job she’s worked so hard towards may not be hers after all. 

But Tracy’s not a kid anymore. She’s an adult, and she can deal with this. She can find another job, or maybe she’ll go back to law school. But the night of the Hall of Fame induction read carpet ceremony, everything changes for them all, and Tracy sees who she really is, right before the world goes dark. 

Tracy Flick Can’t Win is the follow-up to Election, where a teenaged Tracy Flick first learned how unfair the world can be. Now she’s an adult, a leader at the school that was such a big part of her early story, and she’s still fighting to be seen. Author Tom Perrotta has brought readers back to Green Meadow, New Jersey with a worthy story that mixes old friends and new faces to tell another chapter of Tracy’s story. 

I will admit that I could see a certain (legally) blonde actress slipping back into this role as I read this book. I could hear her voice and see her moving around in Tracy’s life, and I am hoping that there are powerful people in California (like, said actress) who has a similar vision. But even if there isn’t a film like there was for Election, fans of Tracy can read this and see the impressive woman she has grown into. I love how insightful she’s become about her past and about her present, and I couldn’t help but root for her as she comes to terms with the decisions being made around her. Her story is given texture by the stories of the other characters, from the alcoholic former athlete to the current students finding their own voices to the retiring principal and his new RV. 

I loved Tracy Flick Can’t Win, and I think fans of Election (the book and the movie) will be doing themselves a disservice if they don’t read this and catch up with Dr. Flick in the prime of her life. 

Egalleys were provided by Scribner through NetGalley, with many thanks.
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Tracy Flick is back.  In the sequel to "Election," Tracy is once again "campaigning" for herself.  After high school, she continued with her plan to attend college and become a lawyer.  Her mother's illness, though, changed Tracy's course, and she found herself back in her hometown as an assistant principal at the high school.  Of course, Tracy does a stellar job, often covering for the Principal and taking over his duties.  When Principal Jack Weede finally announces his retirement, Tracy feels she certainly has the job in the bag, and is even assured she does by the President of the School Board.  However, other school board members feel that the football team needs the most support and when a former, award winning coach offers to come back on one condition (you know what it is!) Tracy's assured promotion is no longer as assured as what it seems.

I was privilege to receive a galley (Thank you NetGalley!) of this book, and read it right after reading "Election," the first Tracy Flick book. Tracy was so much more likable than she was in the first book, and the misogynistic males were much more awful.  Great sequel and highly recommend both books.
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It’s been more years that I care to admit since Election by Tom Perrotta came out. The movie was a dark comedy that resonated with me, mainly because its big screen adaptation starred an up and coming Reese Witherspoon who I always, not so secretly, wanted to be.

However, unlike Reese, (who seemed to go on to rule the world), the fictional Tracy Flick didn’t have the same sort of luck. Despite being an over the top, overachiever in high school, life is what happened while Tracy was making plans. Before long her presidential aspirations had to take a backseat. What she didn’t abandon though was her desire to be a leader. That’s what led her to ultimately being the vice principal of Green Meadow High School.

One day, the principal, Jack Weede, announces his retirement and with it, a chance for Tracy to move up to being the leader she knows she was born to be. Inspired by this new turn of events, Tracy finds a renewed passion for life that she thought she had lost years ago. Despite Tracy’s best efforts, however, her goal, seems to be just out of reach yet again.

Although this is a sequel of sorts to Election, this story doesn’t focus on Tracy alone. Rounding out the mix are the perspectives of peripheral characters who all play an indirect role in Tracy’s life. The book is depressing, yet oddly comedic, its timely climax culminating in an event that could be triggering to some. A worthwhile read for fans of the original, it might not be as memorable if you don’t know the backstory. Predated by a superior predecessor, it falls a little short, not unlike the character of Tracy Flick herself.
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I'm a huge fan of Election and of Perrotta's other novels, including Little Children and The Leftovers, so I was excited to get to read this one early. We once again get a captivating character in the iconic Tracey Flick, now a single mom and vice principal of a high school. When the principal announces he's retiring, she thinks she has a great shot at the job she once filled when he was out for medical reasons. But as a wealthy new school board member suggests the creation of a Hall of Fame for alums, Tracey and the rest of the nominations committee have to wrestle with ambition, secrets, anger, frustration, and doing what's right. A little draggy in the middle, with multiple POVs, we ultimately get a satisfying ending I've come to expect from Tom Perrotta.
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This was a darkly humorous book. I didn’t read Election and now after having read this I will be going back and reading it.
Tracy Flick hasn’t been able to secure the things in life she has really wanted. Always setting for being second. This was a fun fast read in 24 hrs. It can be read alone but I wis I had read Election first just too get some back history. A well done book I throughly enjoyed. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Thank you to Netgalley for the ARC! I was so excited to catch up with Tracy Flick after all these years. Did I expect her to be doing more than working as an assistant high school principal? Totally. So does Tracy. Tracy thought she was going to be a lawyer and go on to bigger things, but her mom fell ill and then Tracy had a child so here she is working in a school. 

This was a quick read. I enjoyed Perrotta's revisit with this character. I won't lie, this is one book I hope becomes a movie so Reese Witherspoon can reprise her role as Tracy Flick. Perrotta handles several hot button topics in this story in honest ways. The me too movement is at the front and hearing how each character reflects on their past behaviors through that lens is interesting. 

If you liked Election then you should definitely read this book. Even if you didn't read the book and only saw the move you will enjoy hearing Tracy's voice again.
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Tracy Flick Can't Win is a follow-up to Tom Perrotta's 1998 novel, Election. Election followed go-getter social outcast Tracy as she ran for student body president. Now, twenty years later, instead of being a high-powered lawyer, doctor, or senator as she had once dreamed, Tracy is toiling away as an assistant principal in a public New Jersey high school. Her big career plans have been sidetracked by her mother's battle with MS and an unexpected pregnancy, but Tracy still approaches every day with zeal. When Jack Weede, the school's aging principal, announces plans for retirement, Tracy assumes she is a shoo-in. Eager to please the school board in order to ingratiate herself for a promotion, Tracy agrees to participate in the School Board President's pet project to create a "hall of fame" for the school's (un)successful alumni. But no matter how hard Tracy tries she is never quite rewarded, and obstacles appear for her at every turn. Tracy's story, and the story of the school, are told in the alternating perspectives of Tracy, Jack, two students, a hall of fame alum, and a few other characters. The chapters are very short, providing quick glimpses into their lives and perspectives. I wish that these chapters had been longer because I wanted to see some of the ideas more fully fleshed out, although the brevity did keep the book moving. I think that if this book was written by a woman it would be (unfairly) labeled as "women's fiction" and not given a lot of critical literary attention. Because it was written by Tom Perrotta, a well-respected (male) author known for complicated character studies, the book has received a lot of positive critical coverage, particularly in the New York Times. I enjoyed Tracy Flick Can't Win despite never having read Election, and think this book is as enjoyable as it is complicated and thought-provoking.
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Tracy Flick is back! She's an assistant principal, up for the principalship, a single mother, and not doing so hot on the dating scene. 

The high school students, staff, and school board are all unlikeable, showing another way Tracy Flick isn't winning.

I wasn't expecting Tracy's life to be so humdrum, neither did Tracy. I needed to know what happened to her. There's no grand comeuppance, and no rock bottom. Tracy Flick is just fine,

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Thanks to Netgalley and Scribner for the ebook. Tracy Flick is back and somehow she didn’t become the President of the United States, but ended up the assistant principal of a high school in suburban New Jersey. This book has such a rich cast of characters by the author who has become one of the great chroniclers of the various neuroses of the middle aged, upwardly mobile suburbanite.
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Tracy Flick, the heroine of Perrota’s Election (which I did not read) is vice principal of a high school in New Jersey and in the running to replace the retiring principal. All she has to do is play the political game and, of course, like football.  

This is a very fast, entertaining read.  Some may see it as satire, but, having worked in a school environment, I found it quite realistic in terms of experiences, relationships, and politics.

Told from various POVs, it is witty, nostalgic, sad, and scary.  As the adults look back on their pasts, we see the evolution of student and sexual behavior and misbehavior through the last thirty years, poignant reminders of high school bullying, and the wistfulness of looking back at lost opportunities.
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I wanted to love this book in the way that I love Election--for the dark, satirical, and often "I really shouldn't be laughing at this" humor. For some reason, though, this one just didn't land in the same way. I think there's something really special about Tracy Flick as a teenager and Tracy as an adult wasn't as compelling a character. I couldn't buy into this storyline in the way that I could the original. The writing is good, the book is objectively a good one, but I unfortunately did not enjoy it as much as I had hoped. I think folks who are looking for a great sequel to Election might be a bit disappointed, but reading this as a one-off experience would probably be pretty enjoyable.
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Published by Scribner on June 7, 2022

Tracy Flick, the protagonist in Tom Perrotta’s Election, did not grow up to be president because life does not always cooperate with ambition. She is an assistant principal at Green Meadow High School. Thanks to a weekend affair, she has a daughter named Sophie. Tracy is dating an older orthopedic surgeon who is starting to become a bit clingy.

Tracy’s goal is to project the image that she is competent and trustworthy so that she will be elevated to the principal’s job when Jack Weede retires. Tracy worries that she reeks of Eau de Loser, having failed to win the principal’s job at three other schools.

Weede will be retiring soon to travel to with his cancer survivor wife, much to the dismay of Front Desk Diane, the secretary at the front desk who used to shag Weede in his office. School board member Kyle Dorfman tells Tracy that she’s a shoe-in for the job, but Tracy knows that nothing in life is certain.

Tom Perrotta’s novels are driven by amusing characters. Thanks to a one-hit-wonder app, Dorfman, unlike most residents of Green Meadow, has money. That explains his presence on the school board. He easily convinced the board to let him fund a Green Meadow Hall of Fame. The first candidate (other than Dorfman himself) is Vito Falcone, a school bully who was the school’s only notable athlete, having played a couple of years in the NFL. Choosing a jock, Tracy thinks, is “the most obvious and depressing choice in the world,” but she’s not about to make waves. As part of his twelve-step program, Vito is apologizing to all the people he harmed. It’s a long list.

Other nominees for membership include a student who died in Vietnam, a student who prevailed in a sandwich eating contest, and a successful car salesman. The committee rules out the only other noteworthy jock because he got charged with a crime for fighting a white cop who didn’t want a black guy dating his sister.

One of the members of the committee to choose Hall of Fame inductees is a student named Lily Chu. She has a relationship with someone named Clem who uses “they” as an identifying pronoun. Lily needs to keep them from meeting her conservative parents, who think Clem is a girl named Amelia.

Ultimately, Tracy’s story, like Vito’s, is one of “squandered promise” — their best years were their high school years, with so much potential ahead, all unrealized. That would be (and has been) a strong premise for a deeper novel, but Tracy Flick Can't Win isn't a novel that attempts serious depth.

The loose plot that holds the characters together is Tracy’s quest to become a principal. Tracy’s life history is one of being stabbed in the back by people she trusted. Whether that will happen again seems to be the question that drives the plot until it doesn’t. Perrotta splinters off a number of apparent subplots that remain undeveloped or exist for no reason, never becoming subplots at all.

The story and characters are sufficently entertaining to earn my recommendation, although the recommendation comes with some warnings, including the frustration of a splitered plot. More importantly, the novel takes a surprisingly dark turn at the end (surprising for a Perrotta novel, anyway), perhaps as a reminder that high schools these days can be dark places. Given the lightness of the story until that point, the ending is a bit too jarring to be satisfying. Had its antededents been explored in greater depth, the ending might have a success. An epilog attempts to reassure the reader that Tracy Flick Can't Win is more light than dark, but the epilog seems to be tacked on to please readers. At least Perrotta avoided the sin of predictability.

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From president of the student council in the first Tracy Flick book, Election, to Vice Principal in this book, Tracy is doomed to be in high school forever despite her lofty aspirations.   Ultimately, this book takes the social issues raised in the first book and filters them with a modern lens.  

In a book chat with friends, we all agreed that this read almost as a screenplay for a future movie. The introduction of so many characters and storylines could even be seen as a script for a tv series. I’d be happy to see either come to life.
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QUICK TAKE: Tracy Flick is back at it, this time aiming for the role of high school principal rather than student body president, and yet again fighting against skewed agendas for a role she should be a shoe in for.

There was a lot to unpack with this one and I'm not sure if given the current events in the United States it is bad timing for this publication or perfect timing. There are a lot of elements of trying to stay relevant and keeping up with your own expectations, while also comparing the glory days and missed opportunities to your current reality. There is a strong focus on how our past tragedies and traumas shape our future selves.

This story is much darker than I remember Election being, maybe because I'm only remembering the movie, but I think it definitely warrants a re-read (just got it from the library, so stay tuned!). It's a quick read, was entertaining throughout and if you're a fan of Election and want to see where Tracy Flick finds herself in her middle years of life, I'd highly recommend it.

Please check the content warnings prior to reading as there are certain scenes in this book that may be triggering for readers, especially in light of the current events in the United States.


Thank you @scribnerbooks and @netgalley for the free advanced digital copy!
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Thank you to Scribner for providing a NetGalley ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Pub date: 6/7/22
Genre: general fiction
In one sentence: Tracy Flick is assistant principal at her old high school and the leading candidate for the principal job - but it seems there's always something in her way...

I requested this book since I was familiar with Tracy Flick from the movie and book Election. I liked that this was a short read that helped readers reconnect to Tracy - her fire and drive to succeed are still present. Some of the events from Election are recast here in the light of the #MeToo movement, and I appreciated that reflection. However, the book was a bit meandering and disjointed at points, so it ended up being only a 3 star read for me.
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Tom Perotta is an author I’ve loved since high school. His books spoke to me and he’s from my home state of New Jersey. Joe College was one of my favorite books I read in college (it’s where I learned what Kimchi was!). His most famous book is Election, which was turned into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon in an absolutely iconic role and Matthew Broderick as her teacher. The novel and movie are both incredible works of art. 

Tom has written a sequel starting one of his most famous characters, Tracy Flick, in a new novel 22 years after the original story. In Tracy Flick can’t win, she’s an assistant principal of a NJ HS, with a 10 yr old daughter she can’t quite relate to, and a sort of boyfriend she’s not really into. When her principal announces his retirement, Tracy thinks she’s a shoo-in for the role. But  nothing is ever easy for Tracy.

Tracy is put on a task force to help elect a Hall of Fame for the school and this brings a new cast of characters. The story is told my many POVs which I loved in this novel. I think reading different points of view really added a few layers of depth. The end of the book is definitely a twist I didn’t see coming, but it makes sense with the rest of the story. 

You really can’t go wrong with a Perotta book. There’s a reason so many of his books have gone on to become tv shows and movies. He is an incredibly talented writer who gets suburban life just right. 

Thank you so much to @scribnerbooks, and @dartfroggco for my gifted copy and amazing Tracy Flick goodies! The book is on sale now and it’s worth the read to see where Tracy is now.
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