Such a Good Girl, the second young-adult release by Nashville writer Amanda K. Morgan, is a suspense-filled story with a surprise ending that will have readers returning to the novel for days after closing the book.
Riley Stone is the perfect daughter and the perfect student. With her equally perfect grades, she’s been accepted to several prestigious universities and has been awarded enough scholarship money to pay for any one of them. But she is no isolated egghead. She engages in charity work and has two loyal best friends. She’s also beautiful. And if she doesn’t have a boyfriend, it’s only because she’s focused on her goals.
Still, life’s not quite as ideal as it might seem. Riley’s parents, so accustomed to her achievements, are more focused on helping her loser older brother get his act together. When she tells her family that she’s been accepted to Princeton, their response is not exactly overwhelming, according to Riley: “Here I am getting greasy garlic-bread hands all over my letter from Princeton, and Mom doesn’t really care. But get my brother to go to his pregnant girlfriend’s doctor appointment, and she’s practically a living, breathing parental seal of approval.”
The parents show a little more interest when Riley finally brings a boy home, but that’s not the kind of attention Riley craves: “Weird that it took a guy for them to notice that their daughter was here, around, a sentient being instead of a picture to straighten on a wall. Weird that I wasn’t enough on my own when I was being the perfect child and pinning awards and ribbons to my dream board and filling my bank account I can’t touch with grants and my future with scholarships. It took a boy . . . to even get them to look at me.”
But Riley’s biggest problem results from a crush on Mr. Belrose, the French teacher, who is young and handsome, and who just happens to have a connection with Riley: he went to high school with her brother. And he seems to be noticing her back, as well. To give away more would spoil the surprise, but if readers think they know where this story is going, they are probably very wrong.
Most of Such a Good Girl is told from Riley’s point of view in a narrative interspersed with third-person lists with titles like “Things You Should Know about Riley Stone.” The first-person approach limits Morgan’s ability to draw a fuller picture of some of the other characters—it would be nice to know why Alex Belrose, for example, is willing to risk his career and his marriage—but this is a minor quibble. Morgan creates a suspense-filled story that will make readers take a second look at every good girl they have ever known.
Faye Jones, dean of learning resources at Nashville State Community College, writes the Jolly Librarian blog for the college’s Mayfield Library. She earned her doctorate in nineteenth-century literature at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Tagged: 2017 Southern Festival of Books, Amanda K. Morgan, Children & YA