Cover Image: Tracy Flick Can't Win

Tracy Flick Can't Win

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Watch Election, a movie from 1999 starring Reese Witherspoon based on Tom Perrotta’s book of the same name.  Election is about a high school student counsel election and Tracy Flick, an ambitious go-getter who does it all.  Tracey also has a relationship with one of her teachers and let me tell you, that movie aged very poorly.  Tom Perrotta tries, I think, to make amends in Tracy Flick Can’t Win.

Twenty-some years later, Tracy is now assistant vice principal of her old high school, gunning for the job of principal.  She’s single with one daughter, and is sick and tired of being the most qualified and under appreciated member of her team.  She’s on the selection committee for a hometown hall of fame, which leads her to reflect back on her own trajectory.

I highly recommend watching the movie for a refresher before reading the book.  Bonus, then you might read the book in Reese’s voice, which is what happened to me!
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I absolutely love the Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick movie Election from 1999. I have probably watched it over 100 times - but I’ve never read Tom Perrotta’s book, on which the movie was based. I’ve read and enjoyed many other books by Perrotta (Little Children and The Leftovers are the two I enjoyed most), but I was thrilled to get an ARC of Election’s sequel, Tracy Flick Can’t Win, from Scribner Books - thanks for sending it my way via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
I loved to hate the goody-two-shoes Tracy in Election, and it was surprising to see how she had changed in the 20 years between high school and the present in Tracy Flick Can’t Win. Tracy now works as an Assistant Principal at a New Jersey high school, applying and getting passed over multiple times for Principal positions
This is a short book with a lot of different characters, written from many different POV. Hearing from Tracy, the soon-to-be-retired Principal Jack, the head of the school board Kyle, the former football star and coach Vito, two students on the school’s Hall of Fame committee, among others, the reader gets a broad perspective of the goings on at Green Meadow High. As a high school teacher, I recognized some unfortunate similarities to the red tape bureaucracy and patriarchy portrayed in the book. The induction scene near the end was tough to read - check the content warnings for this one, please!
I think you could read this without knowing the plot (and wit!) of Election, but I think you’ll enjoy it more having watched that movie - and it’s available for your viewing pleasure on Prime.
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In “Tracy Flick Can’t Win”, Tom Perrotta kills it with a super easy quick read. The short chapters and the switching characters point of view were two things that I enjoyed about this book. Unfortunately the story was disappointing and the ending was a bit glossed over. In my opinion, the nostalgia from Election isn’t enough incentive to read the book. Thanks to Scribner and NetGalley for the ARC.
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𝐈𝐧 𝐟𝐚𝐜𝐭, 𝐢𝐭 𝐡𝐚𝐝 𝐛𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐭𝐭𝐲 𝐜𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐫 𝐭𝐨 𝐦𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐡𝐨𝐰 𝐢𝐭 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐤𝐞𝐝- 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐠𝐨𝐭 𝐭𝐫𝐢𝐜𝐤𝐞𝐝 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐨 𝐟𝐞𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐞𝐱𝐜𝐞𝐩𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐥 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐧 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐮𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐲 𝐰𝐞𝐫𝐞, 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐧𝐨𝐫𝐦𝐚𝐥 𝐫𝐮𝐥𝐞𝐬 𝐧𝐨 𝐥𝐨𝐧𝐠𝐞𝐫 𝐚𝐩𝐩𝐥𝐢𝐞𝐝.

Flick is back but she isn’t the same ambitious, anointed girl she once was. Feeling less exceptional, what gnaws at her is the possibility she is ordinary. Her calling of greatness has dwindled, working as an Assistant Principal at Green Meadow High School is a far cry from her ambition (not dream, mind you) of becoming the first woman President of the United States. No one can deny she was well on her way having graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Georgetown but her hunger of a political future came to an end when she was called back home. We find Tracy a single mother, desperate to scale second place (the rotten stink of second) and secure Principal Jack Weede’s position, now that he is finally retiring. She has it on good authority she is the perfect fit but she knows that life can change on a dime. Weary of swallowing humble pie, this is her chance to make something of herself, to stop being runner up.

Kyle Dorfman, President of the school board, has a vision. He wants to bring a Hall of Fame for former students to the school. Flick takes the reins as part of the committee, if she can prove herself then she’ll have Kyle forever on her side but the idea of honoring golden boys (athletes) is a vile reminder of her youth. Of course it is exactly who the men want, a hero on the field by the name of Vito Falcone, the greatest football player in the history of their town. Tracy’s daughter is on the cusp of turning eleven but the two aren’t as bonded as she and her own mother were. Her child’s father wasn’t the love of her life, and her current boyfriend seems to want more than she is willing to give. Her mantra doesn’t seem to be working, and people are out to crush her. Is she really fated to lose, despite the passion and drive she has invested in her life?

There aren’t any characters on the fringe here, they each have demons of their own. The past is breeding vengeance, but it’s not only Tracy who feels the universe is playing favoritism. Front Desk Diane is tired of being put off while having to wear a cheerful mask, Principal Jack Weede loves his sick wife despite evidence to the contrary, Lily Chu (Student Vice President) is discovering her sexuality while her parents want her focused on her education, Nate Clearly (Student President) is wrapped up in a celebrity crush, Vito is a ‘sorry’ wreck ready to make right, Kyle Dorfman sees himself as a visionary but could be a narcissist, and his wife’s attempt to befriend Tracy come across as suspect. There are alumni who aren’t so keen on the choices made by the committee and Tracy is starting to realize there are people who are trying to ruin her chance at success. There might just be an unraveling. There is humor but a moment of bullying reminds me of why school is hell for so many. Where are the seeds of revenge planted, I wonder? It’s a quick read but enjoyable and damn if I can’t get Reece Witherspoon as Tracy out of my head. She’s a hell of a character, Flick. I have to admit my favorite Perrotta novel is 𝘓𝘪𝘵𝘵𝘭𝘦 𝘊𝘩𝘪𝘭𝘥𝘳𝘦𝘯 but Flick has a special place in my heart, the weirdo. Overachiever Tracy working at a school is believable and I think the ending is perfectly fitting. I can’t imagine the story any other way.

Publication Date: June 7, 2022

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I've read every book Tom Perrotta has ever written. Tracy Flick Can't Win is the sequel to the big besteseller  Election.  I read it in one sitting and wished it could have been longer. I already miss all the characters. What I loved about the book was it shows us that just like in life people who were successful in their early years don't always end up living up to their potential and sometimes end up as failures. It's about obstacles that get in their way that sometimes are out of our their control.( i.e sexism, homophobia etc.)  It's all about how we fight against them and if we ever really had a chance to overcome them. The story is told through multiple charatcers each telling their sides of things with the conclusion of the novel endng in a way that in today's world may need a warning. I really enjoyed this novel in that it was great seeing Tracy on the pages again and how she fits in today's world . You root for her fighting spirit but just in different ways. You see that she will never reach her potential of who she really wanted to be but accepts that it's ok to just be her. This will be a big bestseller and a huge book club favorite. Thanks to netgalley and Scribner books for the arc.
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Tom Perrotta’s novel Election, was a lot of fun, and the film version is a classic. The main character is Mr M, a married high school teacher who decides to run interference in a high school election. The almost-sure bet winner for student president is Tracy Flick. and the teacher decides Tracy should not win. Tracy Flick is an incredibly determined, driven character, and essentially, a formidable enemy. Tracy Flick Can’t Win is a follow-up novel to Election. It’s not essential to read Election first, but it certainly helps.

The novel opens with Tracy, now a divorced single parent, working as the Assistant Principal at Green Meadow High School in New Jersey. In Election, there was the sense that Tracy was going to be extremely successful, so what went wrong?

I’d always been a party of one, set apart from the other kids by the conviction–I possessed it from a very early age–that I was destined for something bigger then they were, a future that mattered. I didn’t believe that anymore–how could I, my life being what it was–but I remembered the feeling, almost like I’d been anointed by some higher authority, and I missed it sometimes.

If you read Election or watched the film, then you know that Tracy had an affair with one of her high school teachers, and that Mr. M makes it his business to see that Tracy loses the Election. One of the things I really liked about Election was the creation of the high school world of frustrated ambition, and the teachers who watch students leave for (in theory) brighter, fresher prospects than their own.

So both novels Election and Tracy Flick Can’t Win share elements of frustrated ambition within the high school setting. Tracy’s frustrations with her stalled career centre on her desire to become the new principal–after all she was acting principal during the period in which the principal, Jack Weede, recovered from a heart attack. She knows the job; she’s dedicated, so why isn’t she the preferred candidate?

Over time, it’s revealed why Tracy never had the brilliant career she (and others) expected. And it’s also a bit of a time warp to see Tracy still in high school–even if she is more or less running the place. The big dilemmas here are: 1: who will be the new principal and 2: who will be the two candidates for the Hall of Fame. One of those nominated is Vito Falcone—a former NFL player who left a trail of damaged lives in his wake. Vito, as a famous athlete, seems the obvious choice, but then that choice harks to the typical high school culture emphasis on sports.

Various voices and viewpoints form the chapters: students on the committee, the principal, a school board member, possible Hall of Famers. One of the students , Lily Chu, begins a relationship with non-binary Clem. “They were a sophomore at Wesleyan.” When I first read this I thought it was a typo.

There wasn’t much humour here and the story wrapped up rather quickly in a way that reflects our violent times. Tracy Flick was a great character in Election. Here we see her worn down by disappointment, and all that fire has mostly fizzled out.. Given the number of Perrotta’s other works that have made it to the screen, we can expect this to be adapted also.

Review copy
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If I could give this book 10 stars I would.  Great characters-both old and new, a timely storyline that makes you think and absolutely spectacular writing.  It is fabulous.
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This is the sequel to the late 90’s book (and movie), Election. It’s a testament to how much things have changed since the original was published that I didn’t immediately remember that Tracy was having an affair with her teacher.
Well, almost 25 years have passed, and everyone is more woke, including Tracy, who is now the Assistant Principal at her alma matter. This sequel is definitely more sympathetic to Tracy, and we get a bit more of why Tracy is so driven to succeed.
Although I enjoyed Tracy Flick Can’t Win, it kind of felt like an addendum to the original, casting a new eye onto the social problems that the original mocked.

Thank you Scribner and Netgalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Thank you so much to Scribner for the chance to read and review this book prior to release.

I had not read or seen the movie ELECTION but I still think it would make enough sense for someone to go in blind.

I like how the format was broken up in small sections from multiple perspectives, which made it easy to read quickly.

I did have a harder time getting into exactly what was going on and there was a little too much sexual assault and infidelity for my preference.

I think a lot of people will enjoy this one through.
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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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