Expelled from thirteen boarding schools in the past five years, seventeen-year-old Jane Fontaine Ventouras is returning to her Southern roots, and the small town of Bienville, Alabama, where ladies always wear pearls, nothing says hospitality like sweet tea and pimento cheese sandwiches, and competing in the annual Magnolia Maid Pageant is every girl's dream.
But Jane is what you might call an anti-belle - more sarcasm and cynicism than sugar and spice. You can be sure that the last thing on her mind is joining the Magnolia Maid brigade and parading around town in an enormous dress and frilly bonnet. So when she finds herself up to her ears in ruffles and etiquette lessons, she's got one mission: escape.
What's a girl to do? Will Jane survive Bienville boot camp intact or will they - gasp! - make a Southern belle out of her yet? (from back cover)
I thought that Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt was a cute and fun read, perfect for those lazy summer days. While the novel lacked some development, I still enjoyed reading about Jane and the other Magnolia Maids' journey.
I always think that the debutante season is a good time to set a book - there's always a lot of interesting things you can do with that concept. In Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt, Jane has no desire to be a Magnolia Maid; she only does it to please her grandmother. Not only does she not want to be a belle, but Jane isn't quite Maid material: she's rude, loud, opinionated and has a tattoo. So when she gets chosen to represent her town along with four other girls, Jane is extremely surprised. I was confused in the beginning because I thought the whole book was going to be about a debutante pageant. Instead, it's about what happens after the five Maids are chosen and what they do as goodwill ambassadors of their town. It took me a while to catch on to that so I wish that the Magnolia Maid pageant was better described.
I liked Jane as a character and that she was still likable even though she's saracastic and cynical (not the most fun traits). But what I liked the most was that each of the five Maids, Jane, Ashley, Zara, Mallory, and Brandi Lyn, all learned something about themselves throughout Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt. They all changed for the better and even the bully Ashley learned from her mistakes and was a nicer person by the end of the book.
There's a subplot with a character named Luke, who Jane was best friends with before she was shipped off to multiple boarding schools. He receives a lot of page time in Jane's thoughts, but nearly enough in the actual story. He's supposed to be this sort of potential love interest and I thought the subplot with him was resolved too quickly. I would have liked to see more of him, especially since Jane and him have such history.
I enjoyed Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt. I would read this at work and everyone would make fun of me because the title (one friend kept saying how "never sit down in a hoopskirt" was the best advice he ever got) so you might not want to read this in public. Though this novel wasn't perfect, it had some cute characters, a nice ending, and character development.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
FTC: received from publisher.
Release Date: June 14, 2011
2011/Egmont USA/296 pages.