Cover Image: Tracy Flick Can't Win

Tracy Flick Can't Win

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Tracy Flick is Vice Principal of Green Meadows High School. She's capable, competent and more than qualified to fill the position of Principal when the job opens up. Except the obstacles keep piling up. There's the good ole boys network, and the sports program, and the perceived resting bitch face, and whether or not people like her, and the Superintendent, and the list goes on.

As an educator this book hit hard for me. Tracy is so relatable in so many ways. The system in which she works is as frustrating as it's described. The hoops she has to jump through are real. This book is compelling, and so relevant in today's school climate. Loved it.
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2.5 stars 

I'm quite attached to Tracy Flick post-_Election_, and I think many folks who read that book and even saw that film early on will likewise be anxious to know how Tracy's past has influenced her as an adult and how she has (hopefully) grown since her traumatic high school days. Those desires are what drew me to this novel, and the answers have caused me to feel a bit disappointed overall. 

The novel is fast-paced, and while the title and familiarity with Tracy's character suggest that she'll be at the center, she only sort of is. Structurally, too much and not enough happen. There are many characters who share perspective in typically short chapters, and the central theme seems to be about the ordinariness of life and the profusion of disappointment/hopelessness. _Election_ isn't an uplifter, and while I wasn't necessarily expecting that here, I did anticipate enough character development and *some* sense of hopefulness - SOMEWHERE - to get me through this one. I didn't feel like I got much of either. 

Interestingly, I was enjoying this read for the most part until the end. I absolutely hate the culminating pre-epilogue scene. It almost feels like a stunt with the imaginative quality of "and then they woke up!" and that was a truly disappointing turn. 

I most wanted to spend time with this character, and I did get that. However, I'm leaving this read feeling like I wish I had stopped with the first installment.
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Short, delightful chapters written in the different characters’ voices in Tracy Flick’s life made for an enjoyable read in a setting we all can relate to: high school. Tracy has softened a bit from her teenage years in the great movie “Election”. Centering this novel on high school and its Board and Principal and school politics was genius - so much going on within so many characters. As I was reading it I kept wondering why there arent more books focused on the adult lives of those who run a high school - the plot directions are endless! I loved all of the story lines and characters - read the book in an afternoon. It fell short because it tried to do too much and each not thoroughly enough. I wanted more. Heartfelt thanks to Scribner for the advanced copy!
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Tom Perrotta brings his usual wit and biting humor to his newest novel, Tracy Flick Can't Win. In this sometimes laugh out loud and sometimes heartbreaking story we are given the opportunity to reconnect with Tracy, the unforgettable protagonist of Election. She is older and wiser but still facing the obstacles of high school as an assistant principal. When the principal is ready to retire Tracy is the obvious choice to take his place, she is reminded of how the game of popularity is played. It takes a major, shocking turn of events to change things around for our unlikely heroine.
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This is a story about life's disappointments ... and how to navigate them.  Tracy Flick of Election fame is now back in high school, this time as the assistant principal.  Although Tracy did not imagine she would end up a school administrator, she has thrown herself into the role with her trademark dedication -- but she often feels that her hard work and contributions are underappreciated.  When the high school's longtime principal suddenly announces his retirement, Tracy believes she will, at long last, be recognized for her contributions and elevated to the top role.

Just as this new opportunity opens up, a wealthy alumnus convinces the high school to create a new Hall of Fame and Tracy is tapped to serve on the Selection Committee.  The Committee seems intent on honoring Vito Falcone, a former star quarterback who had a brief stint in the NFL.  The focus on Vito brings back many of Tracy's old issues, causing her to reflect on her own path, both professional and personal. and what she has made of her life -- just as, once again, Tracy feels her latest goal potentially slipping away.

This book was excellent.  I am a huge fan of the author, so I was quite excited to read this book and revisit the world of Tracy Flick.  You never know if a character that was so indelible at one stage of life will resonate when portrayed at a later stage.  Here, though, Tracy Flick was the perfect lens for examining the issues of thwarted ambition, adult lives that do not live up to childhood expectations, the absurdities of work life, and complicated dynamics of families and romantic relationships.  As a reader, you almost palpably feel Tracy's frustrations at the way her life turned out, the prospect that she may not even reach the top rung of the smaller ladder she finds herself on, and that life as an adult is not all that different from the dynamics she faced in high school.  This book is alternatively funny, cringe-inducing, and thought provoking.

Very highly recommended!
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Don't worry- I'd mostly forgotten (sorry) the details of Election and this was still a terrific read because Tracy Flick is now an adult and she stands on her own.  Now the vice principal of her high school, she balancing single motherhood (she has a great relationship with her ex and his wife) with running the school and maneuvering to become Principal.  And she's been promised, more or less, that by the tech millionaire on the school board. who persuades her and the rest to create Hall of Fame of graduates.  Multiple people tell the story as the school year and the contest to pick the inductees progresses.  Vito Falcone, struggling with alcohol and possible CTE,  is high on the list but he's trying to make amends- not soon enough for everyone as it turns out.  This seems like a fairly simply plot on the surface- the politics of the school, everyone's secrets, and so on- but there's an undercurrent you might not immediately identify until spoilers from me.  These characters, from the high school students to the teachers, are fully formed.  There are surprises here.  Thanks to the publisher for the ARC.  A fast entertaining read with a few lessons for us all.
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I really enjoyed the movie Election so was excited to see what had happened to Tracy Flick.  This story was OK not great.  Dealt with multiple themes.
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Before tackling this, I read Election to get Tracy's back story. I'm one of twelve people that didn't see the movie. I didn't find the Tracy of Election to be the central character. Her role was large, important, but there was a lot going on in that school year, many moving parts. Tracy was only in high school, so there's that. There were some cringey, inappropriate "relationships" in Election, including one Tracy had with her sophomore English teacher. 

Perrotta addresses this right off the bat. In the first chapter, the  current day Tracy puts some present day thoughts around the experience: "...let the past be past. The truth is, we're all prisoners of our historical context". 

Tracy is now an Assistant Principal at the high school, vying for the top job when the Principal announces his retirement. That's one of the threads, There's a thread about an inaugural Hall of Fame for famous or noteworthy alums of the high school. A rotating cast of characters narrate the events, giving a bird's eye view of the town, its politics and dynamics. 

In straightforward, direct prose, Perrotta pulls us in, with chapters that get shorter and shorter, characters getting worked up about the Hall of Fame, the football team, affairs, past history, all leading up to the big induction ceremony. It gets a little nuts, but this time the reader is in Tracy's corner, rooting for her as she deftly and stoically proceeds to tackle whatever is thrown at her. 

My thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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A little disapointed, I love Perotta, and the Election movie but this book fell short of being all about Tracy. There were too many secondary players that I forgot who was who by the end of the book. Fell flat for me.
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This is a terrific read.  The last time we saw Tracy Flick, she was suffering the indignities of high school in Election.  A couple decades later, Tracy's life is much different than she expected.  She is a single mother and the assistant principal of a high school in New Jersey.  Tracy often picks up the slack and steps in to get done all the tasks that others, including the principal, lets fall by the wayside, but she feels her contributions often go unacknowledged, unappreciated, or even resented.  When the principal unexpectedly announces his resignation, Tracy believes this will finally be her chance to take the top slot and show everyone what she can do when she is in charge.  Although she is told by many that she is a lock for the job, Tracy starts to get the feeling that it is not quite a sure thing -- just as events at the school and in her personal life prompt her to wonder how she got to this point and why getting what she deserves often seems out of her grasp.

This is a perceptive, and often funny, read.  It is perfect for fans of the author's previous novels or even those who have not read any of his earlier books.

Highly recommended!
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Ugh!!! I hate to say this but this continuation of Tracy Flick’s story is on top of my DNF stack. Maybe I’m just not the target audience - I’m simply couldn’t get hooked and it barely kept my interest.
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I absolutely loved this book!  I have read other books by Tom Perrotta and have always admired his writing and his ability to write different characters from their unique perspectives.  I had not read "Election" the first book in which we are introduced to Tracy Flick but did see the movie and really liked it. I actually  may go back and read the book "Election."  I loved the structure of this book - it alternates between different characters and different secrets and in some cases past traumas are revealed as the story unfolds.  There is humor in the book but mostly there is incredible poignancy.  This book is a prescient statement about the times in which we live and the end packs a punch.  I could not put this book down and highly recommend it!  Thank you to Netgalley and Scribner for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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Did we need to know what Tracy Flick has been up to? Sure, why not? I was disappointed she didn’t get far and frankly found that a little surprising. 

I did like the idea of her grappling with Metoo after her relationship with her teacher when she was 15. It reminded me of Jill Ciment’s talk about how she is thinking back about her marriage to her high school teacher and the fond memoir of her marriage that she had written years ago. I would have liked more depth here. 

I also don’t know why they bothered having her have a daughter? Talk about an after thought! She was barely mentioned. 

Honestly, I think this could have been a short story. It was not bad but there wasn’t much to it.
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I loved revisiting with Tracy Flick from Tom Perrotta's novel Election that came out in 1998. It's interesting that she's a mom now, although we don't get to see much of her 10-yo daughter or their interaction, and also she's single and very much inside her own head, so mostly we see her struggling internally. The main theme throughout this story is unfulfilled childhood promise. I'm glad there is review of Tracy's high school years because I don't remember or didn't realize how she had been groomed so evilly by her sophomore English teacher. Tracy Flick Can't Win is based solidly in Green Meadow, NJ mostly at the high school where Tracy is now Assistant Principal. The alternating plot lines with other characters recognizable from Tracy's past are artfully paced and come together with a crash at the end. I like that there is diversity, different chapters told from differing points of view including Lily Chiu's; and though we don't really get to know any of the Black alumni or school staff, they exist and they matter.
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Tracy Flick is back and she gets her just desserts! The star of Perrotta's book, Election, is now the Vice Principal of Green Meadow High School. With the Principal poised to retire, Tracy is ripe to become the fearless leader they all need. But a lot of things seem to be conspiring against her (AGAIN!) and it just might not be Tracy's turn to win at life. Short and sweet and well-written, this novel was highly enjoyable. The story is told from several perspectives, not just Tracy's, and we get an overall sense of the unfairness of life for our heroine. 

*Special thanks to NetGalley and the Simon&Schuster for this e-arc.*
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Tracy Flick Can't Win is a long awaited sequel to Election, which was made into a movie in 1999. In this book, we learn what Tracy Flick has been up to for the best twenty-odd years. Tom Perrotta has such a punchy way of writing. He doesn't mince words and is so entertaining. I really enjoyed getting to know the characters in this town and their misdeeds. The characters are written in very different ways so it's easy to follow the story even though there are so many included. I enjoyed getting to know and sometimes hating the characters and decisions made in this small town high school. Perfect if you're looking for a funny quick read! 

Thank you Scribner and NetGalley for providing this ARC. All thoughts are my own.
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This rating is not a reflection of the book or its quality. Rather the low rating indicated this title was removed from my personal TBR list in anticipation of other titles. I do think it is important to note that other novels took precedent over this one and as a result I will not be reading.
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It was fun seeing Tracy Flick as an adult after reading/watching Election. Much like Election, I think this would be a better movie than book, but I still enjoyed my time with it. 

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the free e-copy.
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Tracy Flick all grown up? Yes, please! 

It's not always that we readers get to return to the story of a beloved character, so when the chance is offered, I'm always thrilled. I tore through this book, grateful to be in Tom Perrotta's very capable hands.  An engaging, fun read, well-worth adding to your summer TBR pile.
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I ended my review of Tom Perrotta’s last novel, Mrs. Fletcher with this sentiment: “I like Perrotta, believe it or not. But his instincts hold him back. He’s written Mrs. Fletcher at least three times before–and better. It’s high time to explore new ground.” You can imagine, then, that when it was announced that Perrotta’s next book would be a sequel to Election, the 1998 novel that made him famous, I had very mixed feelings.

On the one hand, it’s the opposite of what I wanted. Instead of breaking new ground, Perrotta was literally running to the past. And Tracy Flick is a complicated character. Election is one of those cases where a film adaptation practically redefines how a property is perceived. When people talk about Tracy Flick, it’s virtually guaranteed that they aren’t talking about Perrotta’s book. Instead, they’re talking about Reese Witherspoon as Tracy Flick. One had to wonder: which version will Perrotta really be revisiting?

On the other hand, Election is Perrotta’s most durable novel. Other works of his have been adapted before, but they didn’t capture the zeitgeist in the same way.  Election, a slim novel told from multiple perspectives centering around a campaign for president of the student government at a New Jersey high school, has proven to be Perrotta’s greatest success. However, one does wonder how much of Election‘s durability comes from the film adaptation. I won’t really get into that because it doesn’t suit our purposes today, but I did reread the book before diving into Tracy Flick Can’t Win. It holds up surprisingly well… except when it doesn’t.

Ironically, the fatal flaw of Tracy Flick Can't Win is the same thing that allowed Election to be so durable: it lacks concrete perspective. I said I didn’t really want to get into the movie, but I was surprised by how little conviction Election actually had during my reread. I think because the movie feels more pointed and sharply satirical, it’s easy to forget that the book doesn’t actually have much of a point of view. It’s sort of an empty shell the reader can graft their own messaging onto. Perrotta presents the circumstances, but he doesn’t do much of anything in the way of conclusions. Election mostly works because it stumbles into relevance despite this lack of conviction. 

This is actually lucky for Perrotta because the lack of perspective in Election is the only reason he can go back and attach a sort of #MeToo theme to his earlier novel. The new novel, set in 2018 to coincide with the dawn of the #MeToo movement, finds Tracy waxing philosophic about how her life has turned out since we last saw her, and blandly wondering if she's as unaffected by what happened to her in high school as she would like to believe. 

Then Perrotta forgets about that idea for the next 60-70% of Tracy Flick Can't Win. When he circles back to it, he only does so glancingly. Instead of grappling with the question, #MeToo is the MacGuffin that allows Perrotta to re-enter this world. 

Instead, Tracy Flick Can't Win is essentially a rerun of Election's plot but set in the adult world. Instead of running for student government, Tracy is interviewing to be Principal at the school where she has been tirelessly slaving away as Assistant Principal for several years. And while Tracy is the most qualified person for the job, people keep looking for other potential candidates who wouldn't be as good as she would. 

Nevermind that this doesn't feel at all like the trajectory Tracy Flick's life would have taken--for the sake of the sequel, Perrotta has to finagle her life story so that she'll be back in a high school running for a position the world would deny her of even though she's the best person for it. Perrotta does make casual references to how Tracy ended up on this life path as the novel progresses, but they feel hollow. As soon as you pick at them, they fall apart. 

You could make comparisons between Tracy and Hilary Clinton. Perrotta seems to be hoping that you will do so. After all, Tracy is an ambitious woman eminently qualified for big jobs who everyone despises for those very character traits. It's just that you could already see Election's Tracy Flick as a stand-in for Hilary Clinton. In fact, it's a more apt comparison since that novel is already set in an election where Tracy's big competition is a male student whose lack of qualifications are rendered null by his popularity. 

Another problem with Perrotta novels is that too often, the plot derails the direction his characters were going, but by the end, everything is mostly back to normal. That's the case here, although the thing that gets everything back into alignment is pretty dark. And while in this instance, Tracy isn't actively self-destructing (which is an improvement from Perrotta's other novels), it still feels odd that everything is back on its original trajectory by the last page. You just have to wonder what the point was. 

All of which makes the reader wonder why this sequel exists? And unfortunately, Perrotta can't make a compelling case for why we had to revisit Tracy Flick at all. It's perfectly fine. It reads quickly. But it doesn't do anything.
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