Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt and Other Things I Learned in Southern Belle Hell
By Crickett Rumley
Publication date: June 14, 2011
When she gets kicked out of yet another boarding school, Jane is sent to live with her imposing grandmother in Bienville, Alabama. There, she agrees reluctantly to participate in the Magnolia Maid Pageant. Since Jane is the exact opposite of the ideal Magnolia Maid, she is sure she won't be chosen. Unfortunately for her she doesn't count on the committee's desire to bring the Magnolia Maid Pageant into the 21st Century by embracing change and diversity. This change includes adding Jane, Brandi Lynn Corey, a girl from "the wrong side of the tracks", and Zara, the first ever African-American Magnolia Maid, a decision that doesn't sit well with some of the snooty Maids and the pageant adviser. At first Jane doesn't care less what other people think of her but when it becomes clear that the pageant adviser is determined to see her and two other Maids fail, she decides to prove the naysayers wrong. Now Jane has to transform herself into a proper Southern Belle.
Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt and Other Things I Learned in Southern Belle Hell is a funny book with a mostly positive message. Jane is a character with a great sense of humor and quite a bit of sarcasm. Her attempts to be a model Magnolia Maid are hilarious. Fellow maid Brandi Lynn Corey also adds unintentional humor with her enthusiasm. I also liked that this book shows girls who are so different working together. It could have been a book about the underdogs defeating the mean girls but it was much better. There is a positive message about being true to yourself and helping others. There is added depth with Jane's grief over her mom's death and her dad's treatment of her as well as the issues faced by other Magnolia Maids.
This book was very nearly a winner for me. It had some girl power, a lot of fun, and a good message-then the girls made a really bad decision and received just a slap on the wrist. I think that situation should have been handled more seriously because though no one got hurt, it could have ended badly and they needed to be more responsible. Jane was particularly flippant about the whole thing though the other Maids seemed genuinely sorry. That was what sort of ruined the book for me. I didn't want the story to read like an after school special but I thought the book sent mixed messages. In the end there is some redemption but I felt it was not quite enough. Still, this is an enjoyable book aside from that issue. I like that there are some loose ends and that the romance does not overtake the plot. In spite of its flaws, I think Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt and Other Things I Learned in Southern Belle Hell is entertaining and a good choice when you are in the mood for a light read. I would suggest this to fans of Abby McDonald.
Readalikes: The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg, The Cinderella Society by Kay Cassidy, Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty by Jody Gehrman, Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots by Abby McDonald
Note: I received an ARC of this book for review courtesy of the publisher