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Monday, February 8, 2021

Book Review: All Girls by Emily Layden

At an all-girls boarding high school in New England, a scandal has erupted belatedly. An alum who is roughly my age (mid 40s) is suing the school and has publicly made statements about having been sexually assaulted by a teacher when she was a student there. She went to the school administration and she got kicked out of school. Not only were there no repercussions for the teacher, he is still teaching there. Well, until this gets out now, in this era of #metoo. The teacher promptly leaves and the school hopes the scandal will just go away. Which of course it won't. 

This book follows about a dozen different girls at the school, each one narrating her own chapter. Some are freshman, not having any history at the school and being shocked by this news hitting just as they start school. Others are seniors who are dismissive, as everyone knew that teacher was problematic for years--why worry about him now? (I get that. I had an English teacher in high school who everyone said dated students. It was well-known.) Some students deal with the new stress and strain of sexual assault in their backyard through art. Others through protest. 

If you love a good private-school novel, as I do, this one is completely current (minus COVID) and brings this setting well into the twenty-first century. Having gone to a small, private college, I understand that insular feel, as well as the criss-crossing student relationships and almost incestuous feeling of closeness. I think these girls will all turn out okay, one way or another.

This book is published by St. Martin's Press, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

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