Girls With Bright Futures: Exploring the Dark Side of College Admissions
TITLE: Girls With Bright Futures
AUTHOR: Tracy Dobmeier, Wendy Katzman
GENRE: Domestic fiction, Suspense
PUBLISHER: Sourcebooks Landmark
PUBLICATION DATE: February 2, 2021
TWs: description of rape, anxiety, depression and eating disorders in teens
NARRATOR: Mia Baron
3 determined mothers, 3 daughters with great potential, and 1 Stanford spot. How far is each mother willing to go, and which lines are they ready to cross to secure their child’s future?
Girls with Bright Futures thrusts you into the world of crazy, suburban moms whose polarizing view of success dominates their way of living – you either get into an ivy league college, or you’re a failure. These kids are juggling it all between extra classes, learning other languages, carrying their sports team to national levels, and almost any other high-stress high school activity you can think of.
I can summarize this entire plot using a line from the book…..
College admissions season at Seattle’s Elliott Bay Academy is marked by glowing acceptances from top-tier institutions and students as impressive as their parents are ambitious. But when Stanford alerts the school it’s allotting only one spot to EBA for their incoming class, three mothers discover the competition is more cutthroat than they could have imagined.
Tech giant Alicia turns to her fortune and status to fight for her reluctant daughter’s place at the top. Kelly, a Stanford alum, leverages her PTA influence and insider knowledge to bulldoze the path for her high-strung daughter. And Maren makes three: single, broke, and ill-equipped to battle the elite school community aligning to bring her superstar down.
That’s when, days before applications are due, one of the girls suffers a near-fatal accident, one that doesn’t appear to be an accident at all.
As the community spirals out of control, three women will have to decide what lines they’re willing to cross to secure their daughters’ futures…and keep buried the secrets that threaten to destroy far more than just college dreams.
Pretentious, judgemental, and privileged are words that can describe most of the characters in this book. But their personalities are congruent with the high-standard, suburban world within which they live. While these types of characters are disliked by most readers, as they should be, I found them necessary for the dramatic suspense. You will laugh out loud at the audacity of these characters while empathizing with their maternal desperation to want the best for their child.
The authors did a commendable job of balancing the reader’s focus on the kids and their moms, despite the mothers being the story’s primary focus. You get a glimpse into each family’s dynamic and the motivation behind each mother’s resoluteness.
The relationship that carried this book forward and was the most satisfying to read about (and my favorite relationship) is the mother-daughter bond between Winnie and Maren. Maren is forced to confront her dark past, pushing their perfect connection out of its comfort zone.
The skeletons Maren had in her closet were easy to predict. Still, the authors handled the fallout from their reveal beautifully and realistically, making it the most moving part of the book.
The pacing started a bit slow as the authors needed to set the stage, but once it picked up, I could not put this book down. I figured out the whodunit twist early in the book, but the authors did a decent job swaying me from the real culprit.
One of the book’s strong suits is the look into the wealth and class disparities these mothers face. What one child had to earn (and often did not get) was given easily to another simply because they had the financial means to obtain it. Girls with Bright Futures takes a deep dive into how this difference affects how each mother deals with the obstacles that impede their path.
While some of the parental antics/shenanigans may be thought of as extreme, you can’t help but acknowledge that these things do happen in real life (i.e., the Lori Loughlin scandal of 2019).
The ending ends as expected and makes for a satisfying read, albeit a bit quick. And the epilogue neatly ties up the happenings of the characters after all the college drama has ebbed.
The inclusion of different formats, such as text messages, emails, and Facebook posts, added a more immersive and fun experience. Usually, these formats are best with hard copies of a book, but listening to it as an audiobook did not detract from its intended impact.
Mia Baron showcased such a versatility in her voice allowing her to match each mother’s unique personalities so well! Do you know how audiobooks are great to listen to as you do chores? I found myself looking for things to do around the house just to be able to continue listening to this story.
Girls with bright futures is a gripping and entertaining domestic suspense that feels like a binge-worthy Netflix drama. Go into this book with an open mind, suspend your judgment, and allow these suburban moms to take you on a riveting tale on what it takes to make your child’s dreams come true.
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