Money vs Merit: Girls with Bright Futures Review

by Theja Pk
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Last updated on May 18th, 2024

In this review, I’m excited to share with you why Girls with Bright Futures should definitely be the next book on your TBR.

This debut novel by Tracy Dobmeier and Wendy Katzman 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.

Girls with Bright Futures – Tracy Dobmeier, Wendy Katzman

5 out of 5
illustrated book cover of girls with bright futures by tracy dobmeier and Wendy katzman showing 3 little girls standing next to each other

GENRE: Domestic fiction, Suspense
PUB DATE: February 2, 2021
TROPE: description of rape, anxiety, depression and eating disorders in teens

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?

Characters
5 out of 5
Plot
5 out of 5
Writing
5 out of 5
Overall Enjoyment
5 out of 5
Narration
5 out of 5
Table of contents

Synopsis

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.

Characters

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. 

Tracy Dobmeier and Wendy Katzman 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.

Plot

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 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).

“Never underestimate a mother running out of options.”

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.

Writing

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.

Narration

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.

Conclusion

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.

Enjoyed this review? Then be sure to add ‘Girls with Bright Futures’ to your TBR. And if you have already read this book and have some thoughts to share, drop them in the comments below. I would love to hear them!

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