Today, I’m reviewing the incendiary Seton Girls by Charlene Thomas.
This review originally appeared on The Nerd Daily.
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.
Publication Date: 30th August
TW: rape, rape culture, misogyny, violence, manipulation, gaslighting, non consensual sexual acts
Seton Girls ignited my heart. It will push you to use your voice and fight for the truth, however hard it may be.
In the current political climate, it strikes even harder and pulsates with anger at the society we live in. At times, this is an incredibly difficult read. From the very first page, I felt that pit in my stomach drop wide open as I knew where this story was heading. It is a very well-handled depiction of the issue though, igniting much needed conversations around toxic masculinity, rape culture and locker room talk. Personally, I thought it was discussed sensitively and without graphic detail, but enough to clearly establish what has occurred. Thomas dissects the boys will be boys mentality and asks why the voices of survivors are held in less esteem than the reputations of the boys and their sports team. There are far too many real world parallels that instantly spring to mind. That is probably why this book truly burrowed its way into my heart. Thomas does not hold back and that irate rawness just really hits home. She also utilises a past timeline to establish the creation of this sickening structure, building the mystery and clearly exposing the exploitation at the heart of it. The way this eventually intersects with the present timeline is well-executed and underlines how entrenched the school is with this toxic culture. Here, the school revolves around the team and therefore they are virtually untouchable, until Aly starts to look for the truth.
In addition to that incredibly important discussion, there is also an exploration of racism and classism that feeds into this toxic hierarchy of privilege. This power structure of patriarchy and rape culture directly correlates to the classist and racist infrastructures at the school. Thomas brings these factors into a nuanced conversation, particularly in the characters of Aly and J. They are already marginalised and considered outside of the social structure as they are some of the few Black students who are bussed in from more than an hour away. This adds more weight into particularly J’s story, as someone who is dependent on his sport to succeed. The structures of the school are not made to uplift someone like him. Thomas digs into this with the show of his natural success and ability, which the white quarterbacks and current star team can only replicate through underhanded and despicable actions. Also, Britt (the popular senior girl who Aly becomes drawn to) is Black too, but from an incredibly privileged background. This adds another layer to the discussion of privilege at the centre of this book, asking what it costs for success in this social world built to only support the elite few.
Above all, Aly is a fantastic protagonist. As the head of the school paper, she is in the perfect position to interrogate this atmosphere and the suffocating society she has found herself enmeshed in. I loved her genuine passion and drive to find the truth. She has a caring soul that wants to protect those she cares for and a sense of empathy that really makes you fall in love with her. Her and J have a gorgeous relationship as well, with that intimate trust and familiarity that just makes you feel all gooey inside. Their dynamic is always a breath of fresh air in the book, allowing some space to breathe and process everything that has happened. You can tell that both of them deeply care for the other and want the best for them, which is inevitably complicated by the earth-shattering revelations Aly uncovers.
Seton Girls is the type of book that makes you want to burn the world down.