Girls Most Likely, by Sheila Williams

I confess—I didn’t think that I’d like Sheila Williams’s novel Girls Most Likely, being both turned off by the cover art and actively repelled by the purple prose on the back cover, which made the story sound like something by Danielle Steel. Happily, Girls Most Likely turned out to be far superior to its packaging.

It’s not that the cover art and the description are inaccurate, exactly. They just emphasize the wrong things. The artwork on the cover, featuring a group of fashionably shod feet and some scattered confetti, suggests that this is a story about a group of friends in for some high school reunion-related drama—the kind of book where somebody gets totally sloshed and confesses to sleeping with their history teacher and somebody else is secretly gay, but at the end of the night everybody’s tearfully promising to keep in touch. The description on the back of the book, on the other hand, makes the story sound like a Valley of the Dolls-style tragedyfest, full of heartbreak and decades-old dark secrets. Those are the kind of books I usually avoid, but it turns out that Girls Most Likely is as much a story about the experiences of African-American girls growing up in the Midwest during the sixties and seventies as it is about “the ashes of a ravaged home life”, and the “tragic mistakes” that rise from a “live-for-today attitude”. (Those are quotes from the back cover—I’m not kidding about the Valley of the Dolls comparison.)

The novel, about a decades-old friendship between four women, is told from alternating points of view. The first, longest, and most interesting section of the book is devoted to Vaughn, a smart, likeable young woman with dreams of becoming a writer. Then there are about fifty pages each devoted to Reenie, Su, and Audrey, all of whom struggle to rise above various forms of adversity. Their stories are entertaining, and one roots for them to succeed, but it’s Vaughn’s voice—the descriptions of her Ohio high school, the beauty shops in her neighborhood, the creepily casual racism that she occasionally encounters—that will make the biggest impact with readers.

The last three sections of Girls Most Likely make the novel a solid choice for anybody looking for a well-written feminine potboiler, but it’s the first section of the book that makes it stand out. If you’re in the market for a smart, moving story featuring an underrepresented heroine demographic, then don't let Girls Most Likely's uninspired packaging dissuade you from picking up a copy.
Posted by: Julia, Last edit by: Julianka


robotic princess
robotic princess
06 Sep, 2006 11:51 PM @ version 0

Woah. Those are some sexxxxxy shoes for a bunch of ladies in their fifties (forties?). Particularly the ones with the little chain things....

06 Sep, 2006 11:54 PM @ version 0

I thought that too! But that's probably because my mom's in her fifties, and her idea of dress-up shoes are flat Mary Janes with stockings, instead of socks. (My mom believes in comfort.)

13 Sep, 2006 10:25 AM @ version 0

OK I will read it, as soon as I can find it! I would add that NPR gave this book a very good review. Now that is not everything, but it is something.

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