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Publisher's Summary

From New York Times bestselling author Tom Perrotta, a pitch-perfect new satirical novel about ambition, coming-of-age in adulthood, and never really leaving high school politics behind—featuring his most iconic character of all time. 

Tracy Flick is a hardworking assistant principal at a public high school in suburban New Jersey. Still ambitious but feeling a little stuck and underappreciated in midlife, Tracy gets a jolt of good news when the longtime principal, Jack Weede, abruptly announces his retirement, creating a rare opportunity for Tracy to ascend to the top job.

Energized by the prospect of her long-overdue promotion, Tracy throws herself into her work with renewed zeal, determined to prove her worth to the students, faculty, and School Board, while also managing her personal life—a 10-year-old daughter, a needy doctor boyfriend, and a burgeoning meditation practice. But nothing ever comes easily to Tracy Flick, no matter how diligent or qualified she happens to be.

Among her many other responsibilities, Tracy is enlisted to serve on the Selection Committee for the brand-new Green Meadow High School Hall of Fame. Her male colleagues’ determination to honor Vito Falcone—a star quarterback of dubious character who had a brief, undistinguished career in the NFL—triggers bad memories for Tracy, and leads her to troubling reflections about the trajectory of her own life and the forces that have left her feeling thwarted and disappointed, unable to fulfill her true potential.

As she broods on the past, Tracy becomes aware of storm clouds brewing in the present. Is she really a shoo-in for the Principal job? Is the Superintendent plotting against her? Why is the School Board President’s wife trying so hard to be her friend? And why can’t she ever get what she deserves?

In classic Perrotta style, Tracy Flick Can’t Win is a sharp, darkly comic, and pitch-perfect reflection on our current moment. Flick fans and newcomers alike will love this compelling novel chronicling the second act of one of the most memorable characters of our time.

©2022 Tom Perrotta. All rights reserved. (P)2022 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

Critic Reviews

"Lucy Liu, Dennis Boutsikaris, and other talented performers rivet listeners with this sequel to Election.... Liu as Flick sounds no-nonsense yet girlish as she voices Traci's midlife frustration and hope for a promotion. Boutsikaris, as retiring Principal Weede, has a world-weary, wistful tone.... This lively ensemble captivates right up to the audiobook's unexpected, timely conclusion." (AudioFile)

What listeners say about Tracy Flick Can't Win

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Lacked focus

Unlike his singleminded heroine Tracy Flick, Tom Perrotta seemed all over the place on this one. So many characters and subplots …so many different points of view. Some of the subplots were interesting, and might have been developed into full fledged novels of their own, but others were so insubstantial I didn’t understand the point. Perrotta seemed intent on hitting all the hot button social issues — Me Too, LGBTQ, Black Lives Matter…the book felt almost like an apology for any unwoke transgressions the author might have committed in Election.

That said, even three star Tom Perrotta is a delight to listen to, and I was sorry when this story came to an end — an ending so abrupt (and to my mind contrived) I wondered if Perrotta had been under some sort of deadline pressure and needed to wrap things up in a hurry.

The connection to Election was a stretch for me. Election had a wonderful dark humor, which was not present in the sequel. And after Reese Witherspoon nailed Tracy’s character so brilliantly in the movie, it was jarring to find her reappearing in the voice of Lucy Liu, whose interpretation — though perfectly fine in its own right — was quite different. All in all, I’d give Tracy Flick Can’t Win a B-.

4 people found this helpful

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Just read the book to me

The over-acting of the readers and the staccato delivery of the person reading Tracy's voice are distracting from the story itself. I cannot finish this. I would like to return to the days of someone simply reading the book, not emoting and using so many voices. This type of delivery colors the story and interferes with what I am imagining about the characters. I would think authors would be annoyed by this subjectivity as well as it has the potential to change what they intended. In the future, I will listen to samples before buying.

2 people found this helpful

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Enjoyable! Thought provoking!

I loved knowing the thoughts, memories and motives of each character. We knew or WERE one of these characters in high school. Traumatic, painful or glorious, sadly high school might have been the peak of one’s life. For many it was an ordeal suffered before life Really began. This novel gives a thought provoking exploration of how teens can reinvent themselves as adults or be an older version of who they were in high school. The reader brings their own values to the story. Very satisfying listen!

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Audio format not ideal

There are too many characters to follow, & having different narrators for each character doesn't solve that problem. If I hadn't had a library copy of the actual book, I'd have had trouble keeping it straight. The story was enjoyable but I'm going to avoid titles where there are multiple narrators.

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Loved it

I never read Election but saw the movie. I guess since this book is so good I’ll have to go back and read election. This book is delightful and kind and nuanced and funny. Gosh I hope it becomes a film it would be fun to see Reese Witherspoon reprise this character at this new point in her life. I also love many of the rest of the characters- just perfect. My only complaint is it was too short!

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I’m Picking Flick

An exception to my usual “meh” response to sequels. I really liked it. Tracy has grown up and keeps growing up, along with the rest of the failed yet hopeful cast of characters. Satisfying and very human.

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Amazing insight into character, so well written……

The narrators for this book were outstanding, absolutely perfect for each character. These people portrayed in this book were so real, so vulnerable, and so beautifully developed, I did not want to miss a single word. More from Tom Perrotta, please!!

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Tracy is back!!

I really wanted something different to read or listen to. I was in the mood for something witty, edgy, maybe dark, and certainly funny. Upon perusing the recently published novels, I saw Tom Perrotta has a new one out, “Tracy Flick Can’t Win”, and I thought, yep, that’s what I need.

Perrotta does not disappoint. Yes, Tracy Flick is back, in her forties, and still that unaware, ambitious, and frustrated person she was thirty years ago. However, Perrotta didn’t set out to write a Tracy Flick story. He wanted to write about a middle-aged professional football player, with brain damage from all the concussions he endured, who is inducted into a local hall of fame. He must own up to all the cruel things he did to people in high school. Perrotta wanted to write an interesting angle to the #MeToo Movement. Since the football player had to reconcile his high school past, Perrotta had multiple narrators, most adults who had been hurt by the football player or some part of the football player’s history. Perrotta thought about Tracy Flick and realized that she would most likely still be at a high school, trying to be “president” or in the academic sense, Principal. Thus, he made Tracy vice principal; as the story opens, the principal is readying to retire. Tracy wants the job, expects the job, and is shocked when others are being considered.

Tracy begins the story reading an article about a teacher at a prep school who’s been exposed as a sexual predator in his school. Some of the women who are accusing him are Tracy’s age; in other words, the sexual misconduct occurred decades ago. Once Tracy reads the accusations, she realizes that she was not “special”. She states, “I wasn’t an ordinary high school girl. I was an adult before my time.” ….but now she realizes, “Maybe I’m not special. Maybe I was manipulated or groomed in the way that these other girls were.” Now she’s realizing she was not special at all; she misjudged her past. Frustration mounts.

Of course, Tracy feels she deserves being Principal because she still feels that the world should be a fair world. She has paid her dues. And here, Perrotta has fun with the male hierarchy. Or perhaps he’s poking fun at those brown-nosers, back-slappers, and glad handlers who slime their way to the top.

It’s Perrotta’s clear wit in writing that makes this a joy. Tracy’s boss reminisces about the golden days when students smoked Marlboros in the bathroom, beat up gay kids and rated girls on a scale of 1 to 10. His feelings on the #MeToo, “It’s like the French Revolution. They had a just cause, but they got a little overzealous with the guillotine.” Who thinks like that?

A subplot is the school creating a Hall of Fame. There is a Selection Committee, which Tracy is a part of. The nominees for the Hall of Fame are hysterical. The politics of choosing who should receive this award are realistic and amusing. Who do we honor? Who gets to say who we honor? Perrotta does expose our world’s interest in athletes, especially professional athletes; yet what value do they add to society? Why is a professional sports person held in higher esteem than a scientist who finds cures for diseases?

I chose to listen to the audio, narrated by six commentators. The chapters are short and the dialogue switches often. I loved how the different narrators added to the story. Lucy Liu, Dennis Boutsikaris, Jeremy Bobb, Ramona Young, Ali Andre Ali and Pete Simonelli are the full cast. It was a joyful listen, and just what I wanted!

I recommend it to Tom Perrotta fans. He has a particular dark wit which I totally enjoyed.





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timely check in with a cultural high school hero.

easy vivid reading, catching us up with the disappointment of Tracy*s life from Election fame. hope witherspoon is invited to represent her role in a film sequel.