“Tracy Flick Can’t Win” by Tom Perrotta

This is a follow-up to the book Election which was made into a very successful movie in which the character of Tracy Flick was immortalized by Reese Witherspoon. While I haven’t read that book, I have read some of Tom Perrotta’s other books (Little Children and The Leftovers) and found them well-written, very enjoyable, and easy to get into and read. (The latter is especially important for me as I grow older, as I don’t have the patience to plod through a book in the hope that it will soon get interesting – it has to grip me right away!)

Track Flick from Election – in that book, she was in high school competing in the election to be School President – is now in her 40s and an Assistant Principal in a high school where the Principal has announced his retirement, and Tracy, being as driven as ever, wants the job. Of course, her ambitions are much more modest now than when she was in high school. At that time, her ambition was to be the President of US – the first woman President – and it was something she seriously aspired to and was well on track for – studying at Georgetown (on a full scholarship), getting an internship in DC – until she had to move back home to care for her mother, who was very ill. She had to give up on those aspirations, but now, given how qualified she is – she has been the Assistant Principal for 20 years and has been doing a stellar job of it – is it too much to ask for that she succeed as the Principal?

But of course, these things are never easy, as the decision has to be made by a Search Committee, the position has to be advertised, and other candidates have to be interviewed. This is the plot of the book, Tracy Flick Can’t Win, with the backdrop being Tracy’s ambition to be the Principal. In addition to Tracy, there are several additional characters that are involved, including the other members of the Search Committee and some of the alumni of the school. One of the key people on the Committee is the head of the Parent Association, a wealthy ex-techie from Silicon Valley who has returned with his family to settle in the town he grew up in and has two kids who are in the high school. He wants to establish a Hall of Fame in the school to inspire the students, and in addition to a new principal, the search is also on for the inaugural inductees into this new Hall of Fame, which is where the alumni who are under consideration come in.

Thus, there are several characters in the book, and the story is told from the point of view of many of these people, often in first person. In addition to all the grown-ups and their partners and significant others, we also get into the minds of the two students who are on the Search Committee. All in all, the story includes a diverse cast of characters including a non-binary person (who is the love interest of one of the students), an Internet personality (who is the love interest of the other student), an ex-NBA player (who is the main star being inducted into the Hall of Fame), and many more. The chapters are short and fast-paced, dipping into the minds of each of these characters and then moving on to another characters. The book never drags or gets boring.

Overall, I found Tracy Flick Can’t Win a very enjoyable read and can well see Reese Witherspoon returning to play the character of Tracy Flick once again in the movie adaptation of the book. Just like its predecessor, I think it would be a huge hit.

Tracy Flick Can’t Win
Author: Tom Perrotta
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: June 2022

Contributor: Lachmi Khemlani is a fan of the written word.

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