Good Girls


by Shalta Dicaire Fardin and Sarah Sahagian

Print: 978-1-77133-345-0
ePub: 978-1-77133-346-7
PDF: 978-1-77133-348-1
178 Pages
September 28, 2016

  • Macedonian rights sold to Prozart Media, Skopje, Macedonia

Good Girls is the story of Allie and Octavia, two young women trying to figure out who they want to be. Welcome to Anne Bradstreet College, an all-girls prep school in Boston, where a high SAT score is the ultimate status symbol, followed closely by a string of Tiffany pearls. At ABC, as the school is affectionately known, high school isn’t just about shoes, boys and weekend getaways; it’s about becoming more accomplished than Joan of Arc.

Good Girls follows the various personalities of the ABC Debate Team, a collection of high-achieving young women who never break curfew, always do their homework, and all have plans of attending Ivy League colleges. Perhaps the most over-achieving of all her friends is Allie Denning, a tenth grader who is the youngest captain of the ABC Debate Team in the school’s long history. Little does Allie know, her tidy life is about to change. Enter the 15 year-old Octavia Irving, a wild party girl from Montreal, and daughter to now-estranged trust fund-baby parents, Sophie and Mordecai. Allie is the perfectly polished over-achiever; Octavia is the consummate cool girl. After unexpectedly ending up as debate partners, these very different young women must find a way to work together, while balancing school, family conflict, and romance.

Ultimately, Good Girls is a feminist coming-of-age story about two very different young women. Allie is a consummate rule-follower, while Octavia loves to break any rule she can for the sake of it. By getting to know each other, both girls influence and change one another. Ultimately, each girl must decide whether to embrace the life she’s been living, or rebel against her current reality.

Good Girls is the first book in a planned series of witty, daring and feminist- first YA novels that will follow Allie and Octavia throughout their time as students at ABC.

Good Girls is as refreshing as it is original, and it’s definitely one of a kind. Every teenage conversation and snarky aside in the book is completely genuine, and makes the reader feel like they are right back in high school, even if they did not experience the trappings and social hierarchy of an all-girls private school or academic competition. Good Girls not only captures the thrill of a first kiss, but also the thrill of finally finding your way at school. It’s Mean Girls and Never Been Kissed except the nerds are not mathletes or social exiles, they’re the coolest kids in the room. While the book is perfect for its audience, it also transcends beyond the demographic as a piece of contemporary nostalgia. Lines like “trust fund loser,” “gateway academic drug,” and most importantly, “girls can be ambitious without being freaks” feel like instant classics. It’s Type-A Gossip Girl-esque gold, and will hopefully serve as the first in a series of books chronicling what life can be like at or outside of ABC.”

—Joanna Adams, TV producer, The Huffington Post Canada assc. news editor, online columnist

“This story adds complexity to the good girl/cool girl tropes with a swagger that will have you cheering by the end. Octavia and Allie are a force to be reckoned with as they break down the social rules that are holding them back.”

—Rebecca Diem, author of the Tales of the Captain Duke

“Good Girls is an exciting and heartfelt introduction to the world of the prestigious Anne Bradstreet College, where two very different girls are pushed together as teammates, then friends. Reading about Octavia and Allie – and the many other quirky and endearing ABC denizens – is not just entertaining, but also gives us an opportunity to think about our own relationships with others, and celebrate our unique strengths.”

—Jarrah Hodge, founder of gender-focus.com

Shalta Dicaire Fardin has a degree in Gender Studies from Queen’s University; her area of academic focus was primarily in constructing identity through physical presentation. Shalta lives and works in Toronto, in advertising and technology, and is passionate about promoting women in STEM fields. She lives in Toronto, Ontario, and for her four-legged child Jasper.

Sarah Sahagian is a PhD Candidate in Gender, Feminist and Women’s Studies at York University in Toronto. In her academic writing career, she is the co-editor of Mother of Invention: How Our Mothers Influenced Us as Academics and Activists (2013) and The Mother-Blame Game (2015). During her time off from academia, Sarah is a regular contributor to the award-winning feminist blog Gender Focus, writing feminist critiques of popular culture and meditations on various feminist issues of the day. She moonlights as a comedy writer for the Canadian satirical news magazine, The Beaverton. Good Girls is her first novel. She lives in Toronto.

Anna was just about to go home for the night when she heard someone knocking aggressively at her door.

“Come in,” Anna called, feeling a bit nervous about who might appear, and what they might want. Anna was supposed to be meeting up with some friends from grad school at a pub in Cambridge that evening. She had been looking forward to seeing their reassuring faces all week, and she definitely did not want to be late. The weekend had finally arrived and Anna wanted a glass of red wine. As a teacher, wasn’t this Friday night libation her God-given right?

Anna’s door opened to reveal none other than Octavia Irving. Octavia, with her history of spotty grades and her fondness for violating rules about the uniform, was what most people would have referred to as a “problem student.” Anna, however, saw potential.

Octavia was smart. She was analytical and well spoken, but unfortunately for everyone who tried to teach her, Octavia also did not seem to care much about anything other people told her was important. It almost seemed to be on principle that Octavia Irving hated all things adults tried to convince her were priorities. Still, Anna believed if she could just find a way to deal with the girl’s attitude problem, Octavia could become almost anything she wanted to be.

“I don’t want to do debating anymore,” gasped Octavia before she’d even closed the door. Anna was surprised to see her normally insouciant student blinking back tears.

Anna motioned for Octavia to sit down. “What happened?”

“Allie is too intense for me. She’s mad at me for not knowing anything about Turkey. Why does she care? It’s my life! If I don’t care about foreign politics, who is she to judge me for it?” spat a fuming Octavia.

Anna thought for a second about how to respond. She did not want to alienate Octavia, and yet she suspected Allie might not have been completely in the wrong. Of course, Anna assumed Allie had probably said something uncalled for in the heat of the moment. At the same time, Octavia was Allie’s partner, so of course she had every right to care if Octavia knew about Turkey. This was especially true when the two of them would have to debate together on whether the country should be admitted to the EU.

“Octavia, you’re right that Allie should not judge you so harshly. It’s not nice to feel judged like that.”

Octavia gave a half-smile in response, thinking Anna’s words meant she had gotten the guidance counsellor firmly on her side.

“Having said that, debating is a competitive activity and it’s done in pairs. If you choose not to hand in a history assignment, you are only screwing yourself over, but if you don’t do the work here, you’re screwing Allie over too. Is that fair?”

Octavia desperately did not want to concede that Ms. Knole might have a point, so she said nothing at all.

“Octavia, why don’t you want to do the research for this debate? Do you find it boring?”

“No,” admitted Octavia. The few facts she had gleaned in the prep session with Allie admittedly were pretty fascinating. Octavia had no idea there were so many military coups (and coup attempts) in recent Turkish history. She was curious about how those all played out.

“Okay then, so did you have somewhere else you urgently needed to be?” continued Anna.

Octavia decided not to mention Marcus. Instead, she conceded, “Not really. I have at most one friend in Boston. It’s an exceptional day when I have a social engagement. Plus, I’m not an old lady with blue hair who lives in West Palm Beach, so my parties don’t usually start in the late afternoon.”

“Well, then, why didn’t you want to do research for the debate this afternoon?” Anna felt on the verge of a breakthrough.

“I don’t know,” answered Octavia. It was an honest answer. Truth be told, she knew Marcus likely would have been too busy to talk to her even if she had called. He had been blowing their phone calls off a lot lately. He had never really been a fan of in-person calls, preferring to send Octavia Snapchats from bars or from his Crossfit classes.

Anna took a deep breath before speaking again. “Octavia, do you think sometimes you sabotage yourself because you’re secretly afraid that, even if you try your best, you won’t be good enough?”

Octavia was stunned. What was there to say in response? Was that true? She honestly didn’t know. Of course, Octavia knew her father would be pleased if she could be the kind of kid who did well in school and excelled at extra-curricular pursuits, like his sons with Shira. He liked bragging about his kids. Shira’s strict parenting style also ensured Octavia’s younger brothers had a lot to brag about. They were classical violinists who were always at the top of their classes at Toronto’s Upper Canada College. Octavia knew her father. When he could be bothered, he probably compared her younger half-brothers to her. Octavia also knew the comparisons were likely not so favourable, as she was the family’s far less accomplished offspring.

Neither Mordecai nor Octavia’s free spirit mother ever seemed to put much effort into motivating her to be anything other than a disappointment. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been chided for a poor grade or encouraged to try just a little bit harder at tennis.

Octavia had always assumed her lack of effort at the things adults valued was something she couldn’t help. Her apathy had been there for so long, it seemed inevitable. Octavia had always assumed it was a natural aspect of her being until meeting Ms. Knole. Suddenly, however, her indifference to school no longer seemed like so much of a given. Still, she wasn’t necessarily prepared to admit that.

Octavia eventually broke the silence saying, “I don’t know if my distaste for the excessive debating research sessions required by Allie Denning means I have a secret fear of failure.”

“You’re right,” responded Anna in an even tone. “I could just be over-analyzing everything. Even so, I want you to know that you really shouldn’t be afraid of failing. I have a feeling that if you worked harder, you could totally win that debate tournament.”

“I don’t think I have what Allie has,” blurted out Octavia unexpectedly, surprising even herself. “She knows things and she gets what they mean. She’s always going on about the different kinds of secularism and the differences between political parties in countries I’ve never even thought about. I don’t know if I can learn all that.”

“Well, I know you can,” Anna told her student with the utmost confidence.

Octavia sat for a moment, speechless. No one had ever had such an unwavering belief in her abilities before. Anna’s faith in Octavia was purely contagious, making Octavia herself think that perhaps she could accomplish great things. It was an intoxicating feeling, this sense of possibility. Octavia felt like she had just come in from a long, cold night to have a kind soul wrap her in a layer of cozy blankets, and seat her by a roaring fireplace. For the first time in a long time, Octavia Irving felt like going home and doing some work.

3 reviews for Good Girls

  1. inannaadmin

    Good Girls by Shalta Dicaire Fardin and Sarah Sahagian
    reviewed by Vasso Tassiopoulos
    CM Magazine Vol. XXIII, No. 19 – January 27, 2017


    “No, you’re not stupid at all, Octavia. But do you know what they call smart people who choose not to know anything about the world? They call them ignorant,” spat Allie with a hostility that surprised even her.

    Octavia flushed with rage. She was usually so nonplussed about everything. Yet Allie had somehow managed to puncture her laid-back exterior. How dare she call her ignorant? The self-righteous Allie Denning didn’t know her. Octavia was certain that just because she wasn’t an over-achiever, that did not make her ignorant. Octavia tried to convince herself that Allie was just a freak, a girl who spent her evenings reading foreign policy weeklies instead of texting a boyfriend or trying to sneak a joint. Normal girls spent more time listening to Kanye West than NPR’s Democracy Now. So where did Allie get off judging her? Perhaps Imogene had been right, Octavia thought to herself. Maybe debating was just too brainy and intense for her liking.

    Good Girls is the first book in a series of contemporary feminist YA novels by Shalta Dicaire Fardin and Sarah Sahagian. The two authors have created a realistic narrative of privileged teens in Anne Bradstreet College or ABC, a prestigious all-girls Boston prep school. The novel’s characters and setting are both well-developed and realistic. The novel depicts a balanced third person narration as its two tenth grade female protagonists, Allie and Octavia, are strongly developed. The narration also includes strong backstories for many other characters involved in the girls’ lives.

    Good Girls
    revolves around two very different protagonists as they come together as debate partners. One is the over-achieving perfectionist Allie Denning, the other is the reckless Octavia Irving, a girl from Montreal, who has been sent to live at ABC in order to stay out of the trouble and to change her partying ways. The two girls both live a life of privilege but have distinct family backgrounds. Octavia has always lived a life of luxury and privilege while Allie is privileged but also understands her mother’s self-made background. Allie is an involved and enthusiastic member of the Debate Team while Octavia enters the team to fill an extra-curricular activity as suggested by her guidance counsellor. Throughout the story, Dicaire Fardin and Sahagian’s writing seamlessly transitions between each protagonists’ point of view. Readers come to understand and sympathize with both Allie and Octavia who both begin as self-centred and then gain perspective of how they affect one another’s lives while working together.

    Good Girls
    is a promising beginning to an engaging contemporary series for young adult readers. Apart from Allie and Octavia, the third person narration also gives readers a sense of many other people involved in the girls’ lives. Readers gain insight into the backgrounds of their friends, family, and faculty members in their school. The story develops well-rounded characters and also leaves much to be anticipated in terms of backstory for many of its characters in future novels. The writing is current in terms of dialogue where pop culture references are naturally woven into dialogue without seeming being forced for the sake of teen interest. The writing shows that the authors have a strong understanding of their contemporary audience. Dicaire Fardin and Sahagian’s first book is a strong beginning to a series that teen readers will likely look forward to reading as they come to follow how Allie and Octavia navigate prep school life.

    Vasso Tassiopoulos is a graduate of the Master of Arts program in Children’s Literature at the University of British Columbia.

  2. inannaadmin

    Good Girls by Shalta Dicaire Fardin and Sarah Sahagian
    reviewed by Melissa Poole, Clemson University Library, Anderson, SC
    School Library Journal – November 2016

    Gr 8 Up –Octavia Irving starts at Anne Bradstreet College at the beginning of her sophomore year of high school after getting into trouble when a party goes wrong. With the encouragement of her guidance counselor, Octavia joins the ABC debate team and is partnered with overachieving Allie Denning. Allie, a self-proclaimed “good girl” who never breaks the rules, is less than excited about this new arrangement. As they prepare for their first debate competition, free-spirited Octavia must adjust to the structure and demands of her new environment, while Allie learns that life exists outside academia. This is a strong inaugural volume in a coming-of-age series. With a steady pace, it creates an arching plot while only scratching the surface of the characters’ rounded personalities, giving ample opportunity for more exploration in upcoming entries. It would be an ideal novel for reluctant readers who can’t process lengthy stories. While Octavia and Allie are the focus, the supporting characters are developed, with interesting subplots. Romance is written into the story lines, but the main themes of this contemporary novel center on friendship, family conflict, and self-discovery. VERDICT An excellent addition for realistic fiction collections in any school or public library.

  3. inannaadmin

    Latest reads for and about modern women
    Sarah Murdoch
    Toronto Star – October 30, 2016

    Five new books consider questions of gender and women’s role in society today, including essays, a memoir, a history and a YA novel.

    Good Girls, Shalta Dicaire Fardin and Sarah Sahagian

    Good Girls
    is the first novel in Inanna Publications’ Young Feminist Series. At the centre of the story are Allie, a high-achieving goody two shoes, and Octavia, a wealthy wild child from Montreal. These two opposites end up as debate-team partners at the elite Anne Bradstreet College in Boston. Together, the girls learn important lessons about living a balanced life. Authors Fardin and Sahagian have both been involved in gender studies, at Queen’s and York respectively, and have a professional interest in women’s cultural issues. Inanna is a Toronto feminist press.

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