Sunday, February 12, 2023

Most Likely, by Sarah Watson

In January 2049, on the occasion of her swearing-in as POTUS, president-elect Diffenderfer pauses for a moment to think back to her formative senior year.  Flashback to 2019, when four seniors, each of whom have impressive bona fides struggle through the drama of their last year of high school (alongside their friend Logan Diffenderfer). Which one becomes the President thirty years later?  You'll have to read the book to find out!

The four young women, friends since before kindergarten, are inseparable, yet strikingly different.  Ava has the grades to get into a top notch school like Stanford, but dreams of pursuing her art at RISD.  Martha also has the grades for a great school but lacks the financial resources and has to figure out a way to pursue her dream of being an engineer.  CJ can't manage to crack 1150 on her SAT and finds herself challenged by a volunteer stint at an afterschool program for wheelchair-bound youngsters and the critical appraisal of the program's director.  And finally there's Jordan, who dreams of turning her amateur investigation of a local politician's attempt to shut down a local park into an award-winning investigative piece.  While she doesn't find the scandal she's looking for, she instead finds a potential romance with a legislative aide who doesn't realize that she's underaged and over-her-head.  All four of them, at one time or another, find themselves confiding (or more) with the amenable Logan Diffenderfer.

While reading the novel, I twitched at the way that I kept looking for clues, not in the young women's leadership skills, but in their relationships with Logan -- knowing that the one who became Mrs. Diffenderfer becomes the President.  That seemed too sickening like the trope that behind any great woman there had to be a great man, but thankfully that never actually is in the cards.  Instead, the novel proved to be a much more fascinating study about the character of successful people.  Each of these women exhibit multiple character traits (intelligence, loyalty, empathy, resourcefulness, conviction, courage, and others) that made any of them likely candidates for a future president.  And that is really the point of a story like this:  showing how character builds leadership.

It's a winner from several perspectives in my mind:  a story with strong and admirable protagonists, a tale based on kindness and loyalty, a book with an important message to convey about how one confronts adversity, an uplifting story of empowerment for young women, and ultimately a paean to the American Dream that people of character (no matter their background) can change the world.

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