Title: Seton Girls
Author: Charlene Thomas
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Review Copy: ARC by publisher
Availability: Available now
Summary: Seton Academic High is a prep school obsessed with its football team and their thirteen-year conference win streak, a record that players always say they’d never have without Seton’s girls. What exactly Seton girls do to make them so valuable, though, no one ever really says. They’re just the best. But the team’s quarterback, the younger brother of the Seton star who started the streak, wants more than regular season glory. He wants a state championship before his successor, Seton’s first Black QB, has a chance to overshadow him. Bigger rewards require bigger risks, and soon the actual secrets to the team’s enduring success leak to a small group of girls who suddenly have the power to change their world forever.
Review: Seton Girls is a slow burn type of novel that initially bugged my impatient reader self, but when I reminded myself to enjoy the mystery of the reason the football players revere the Seton Girls, I feel in love with the narration, the characters, the pace and the slow reveal of the football teams secret. The story is told in both the present and the past that leads up to the Seton High community learning the secret as well as a delicious minor plot twist. I wasn’t expecting the flashback chapters told in various characters POV and I struggled with their purpose, but like all good readers, when you begin to figure out the mystery (or at least think you do) I began to enjoy the flashbacks because it allowed me to have insight into the mystery our main character Aly is solving. We can see the bigger picture before her and end up on this unique ride as she discovers the reason and cheer for her as she decides what to do with that information.
The novel takes place in an unnamed city in an unnamed state because the “where” of antics of elite prep school don’t really matter as the entitlement many of these students feel is what matters. Which is why having the present time period chapters of the novel told by Aly makes the story even more meaningful. Aly is somewhat of an outsider. One of the few Black students at the school, Aly and her boyfriend J (his full name is never given) are bussed in. Aly is the star editor in chief of the school newspaper, as she is the first junior to be named editor, and J is an up and coming football star quarterback. While they are “outsiders” because of their positions they are actually apart of the “inside” group, and when the group falls apart, both find themselves being pulled in two directions. Aly befriends Britt, a Black Seton elite, who finds herself excommunicated from her friend group when she accuses her best friend’s boyfriend of sexual assault. Aly’s and Britt’s friendship is what ultimately begins Aly’s investigation into the secret as she tries to understand the truth of what happened between Britt and Parker, who is the current senior star football player.
I can’t really say more without giving much away but Aly and Britt make a great team and the development of their friendship is beautiful. In fact, much of the book focuses on the strength of female friendships. Aly mourns with Britt over her broken friendship and desires for them to have a reconciliation. There are often passages where Aly reminisces on how the girls’ friendship appeared from an outsider’s perspective, that the love the four had for each other was greater than the “love” the girls had for their boyfriends. A number of times Aly says the Britt and her friends are each other’s soulmates. I found this theme a wonderful counter to the mystery behind the reason the football player’s chant of “Seton Girls”. And is what ultimately made the novel for me.
Seton Girls is a novel for our times and an excellent example of female teen empowerment against toxic male institutions.