cover image Tracy Flick Can’t Win

Tracy Flick Can’t Win

Tom Perrotta. Scribner, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-1-5011-4406-6

The heroine of Perrotta’s Election returns in this sharp and perfectly executed story of frustrated ambition. Having failed to achieve her youthful career goals, Tracy Flick, now in her mid-40s, is an assistant principal at a New Jersey high school and single mother to 11-year-old Sophia. Though beaten down a little by life, Tracy still harbors ambition and remains determined to reach her goals, and she desperately wants to be voted her school’s next principal. To that end, she attaches herself to a tech millionaire’s dubious scheme to create a Hall of Fame for the school. The number one choice for its first inductee—though not without controversy—is former football hero Vito Falcone, who has also not lived up to the promise of his glory days. He is currently divorced, in AA, and possibly suffering from CTE. As the Hall of Fame selection committee’s debate over who should receive the honor highlights class and race schisms in the high school, an unexpected act of violence alters the course of several lives. As ever, Perrotta writes incisively from several different points of view, illuminating the frustrated inner lives of his characters; call it Winesburg, N.J. Dominating it all is Tracy, whom the reader comes to understand better even through her cringeworthy machinations. This is the rare sequel that lives up to the original. (May)