By Sarah Strohmeyer
Available now from Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins)
I chose to review Sarah Strohmeyer's young adult debut because of its irresistible title: SMART GIRLS GET WHAT THEY WANT. Combined with the excellent blurb, I was sold. (I'm not big on the cover though. No smart girl would wear those unflattering frames.)
Gigi, Bea, and Neerja become friends in elementary school. It's a friendship that's still holding steady in high school. It's good for them, since they support each other's endeavors and are in no way frenemies. But it's bad because they've never had to risk themselves by going outside of their little circle. Then they read Neerja's older sister's yearbook and realize that none of their idol's classmates knew who she was. Gigi, Bea, and Neerja want more. They want social lives and to leave a mark on their high school.
I love that the girls don't have to compromise who they are to get what they want. Strohmeyer's novel is a tale of stretching yourself and doing things that you want to do even though they scare you. It's a tale of getting to know new people and being surprised to how much more there is to them beneath the surface. (Or realizing that the surface is nice but shallow.) It is not a tale of dumbing yourself down to get a guy or ditching your old friends in pursuit of new ones.
Despite their closeness, the girls don't want exactly the same things. Neerja wants to act in the school play and finally make a move on Justin, the guy she's been crushing on forever. Bea wants to join the endangered women's ski team even though she had to give the sport up after her brother had a serious accident. Gigi wants to run for student rep to change a policy that's threatening her Ivy League future and to prevent budget cuts that would cripple the school's Art programs and reduce the librarian to part time. But even though their dreams are different, they're willing to help each other reach their goals.
SMART GIRLS GET WHAT THEY WANT is funny and clever with romance that is predictable but well-done. (And, wonderfully, the Indian girl gets just as much or more romance as the blonde white girl.) Strohmeyer's adult fans will enjoy this novel and it should bring her a legion of teen fans as well. I absolutely love this book and hope you will too. It's everything I could want in contemporary YA. SMART GIRLS GET WHAT THEY WANT, and they want books written about them that are this good.