Girl Meets Class
by Karin Gillespie
Girl Meets Class
Contemporary Women’s Fiction
Setting – Georgia
Paperback: 266 pages
Publisher: Henery Press (September 8, 2015)
E-Book ASIN: B00ZD1VIXO
The unspooling of Toni Lee Wells’ Tiffany and Wild Turkey lifestyle begins with a trip to the Luckett County Jail drunk tank. An earlier wrist injury sidelined her pro tennis career, and now she’s trading her tennis whites for wild nights roaming the streets of Rose Hill, Georgia.
Her wealthy family finally gets fed up with her shenanigans. They cut off her monthly allowance but also make her a sweetheart deal: Get a job, keep it for a year, and you’ll receive an early inheritance. Act the fool or get fired, and you’ll lose it for good.
Toni Lee signs up for a fast-track Teacher Corps program. She hopes for an easy teaching gig, but what she gets is an assignment to Harriet Hall, a high school that churns out more thugs than scholars.
What’s a spoiled Southern belle to do when confronted with a bunch of street smart students who are determined to make her life as difficult as possible? Luckily, Carl, a handsome colleague, is willing to help her negotiate the rough teaching waters and keep her bed warm at night. But when Toni Lee gets involved with some dark dealings in the school system, she fears she might lose her new beau as well as her inheritance.
This is my first Karen Gillespie read but it sure won’t me my last! If was good to stray from the mystery genre for this fantastic story!
Toni Lee Wells is what I would call an adult spoiled brat at the beginning of this story. Her pro tennis career is over due to an injury and her family is rich so she has no worries. Life is easy and free and fun until she gets arrested one to many times for her father and especially her Aunt Cornelia who controls the purse strings. She cuts Toni Lee off without a cent and gives her an ultimatum – get a job, keep it for a year, follow all my other rules and I will give you 5 million dollars. Fail and you are your own.
Toni Lee does have a college degree but no job experience so she hooks up with a Teacher Corps program. She is excited thinking teaching is such an easy job until she arrives for her first day at a school that is underfunded and full of underprivileged kids. The kids are more street smart than book smart and her first days are not easy. But she meets Carl, a teacher with plenty of experience and pretty easy on the eyes. Her life is not smooth sailing though. Being new Toni Lee finds herself in the middle of some shady dealings at the school and not everyone is thrilled as her relationship with Carl escalates. Then there is Aunt Cornelia’s rules hanging over her head.
I have to say I didn’t really like Toni Lee at the start of the story. She really had no concerns, she could do almost anything and her family would bail her out. She was helping a friend pay some bills but I thought she was pretty self centered. I applauded her aunt cutting off but leaving the 5 million dangling didn’t sit well with me. Then the teacher twist happened and Toni started to evolve and I began to like her and wanted to see her succeed.
The part of the story that really grabbed me though was the school and the corruption. In Wisconsin, right now we have a Governor that is a war with teachers and public education. School budgets are cut to the bone and nationwide there is a shortage of teachers. Wisconsin has taken things beyond the Teacher Corps in the story by deregulating teacher licensing standards. So if you think things that happened in this school are far fetched I can tell you they are not. In fact they are worse.
Gillespie also features an interracial couple in Girl Meets Class. This adds a whole under layer to the story. The words of a few characters made my skin crawl but this is still a hot topic in America which is just infuriating.
This is a very fast read with some heavy themes but Gillespie has a way of writing that keeps the importance of the topics but they have a lighter feel while enlightening the reader. She adds Southern charm and humor in exactly the right amounts and places. I love that most of the characters grown throughout the whole story.
A very smart novel. I highly recommend.
Karin Gillespie is national bestselling author of five novels and a humor columnist for Augusta Magazine. Her nonfiction writing had been in the New York Times, The Writer Magazine and Romantic Times. She maintains a website and blog at Karingillespie.net. Sign up for her newsletter on her website, follow her on Twitter or connect with her on Facebook.
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”