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The Brittanys


The Brittanys

From debut novelist Brittany Ackerman comes THE BRITTANYS, a bittersweet, funny and totally nostalgic foray into the minds of teenage girls and their secrets, betrayals and dreams.

In every school, there is a popular group. Without a doubt, the girls in that group will look shockingly similar, wear the same brands, coordinate the colors of their accessories, and kiss the same boys secretly at school dances and parties. In Brittany’s prep school, she and her friends aren’t these girls, but they are something: the Brittanys. Five girls named Brittany, all from similar privileged homes, forced into friendship by their names, parents and classrooms. Brittany Rosenberg is gorgeous and wealthy; Brittany Gottlieb is a know-it-all; Brittany Tomassi is effortlessly cool; Brittany Jensen is an unapologetic tomboy; and our narrator, the fifth Brittany, is Jensen’s best friend, a twosome within their fivesome.

"Funny, heartwarming, and full of nostalgia and vivid descriptions, THE BRITTANYS is a solid read. If you’ve run out of episodes of 'Pen15' or can’t stand another binge-watch of 'Gossip Girl,' this is a perfect palate cleanser."

When we meet the Brittanys, they are freshmen at their prep school --- practically grown-ups, if you ask them --- and they’re ready to buy matching push-up bras, slide on glossy ChapStick, try weed and lose their virginities. After all, they’re young women now! Right from the start, Ackerman drops readers into the dynamics of the group --- the way that Rosenberg and Jensen don’t really like each other, the unbreakable bond between Jensen and our narrator, and even the pushes and pulls of their fringe, non-Brittany friends. Whether they’re comparing how far they’ve gotten with boys or talking about whose parents are most likely to let them get McDonald’s for breakfast, the girls are quippy, bright and eager to please and show off. Although their dialogue can be cringeworthy, Ackerman nails it all. If you have ever been a teenage girl, you will instantly find yourself quaking in your imaginary Nikes, your fictional wrong-color JanSport weighing you down like an anvil.

As freshman year goes on and the girls grow more and more competitive with one another --- the competitions all basically moot since they are “good” girls by most standards --- our narrator starts to fall away from the group. Despite her teenage insecurities and being a little too boy-crazy, we learn from Jensen that the narrator is actually one of the more popular Brittanys --- smart but pretty, skinny but able to wear all the skin-tight clothes of a 15-year-old girl well. With our protagonist coming into her own, her friendship with Jensen implodes and Brittany finds herself alone, forced to navigate the ins and outs of teenage life --- waiting for her period, thinking about sex and wondering what her parents are like on their own --- by herself, with only minor appearances from the other Brittanys and their other friends. Ackerman walks us through lingerie-themed parties, disastrous dates and PSATs with the grace and good humor of Cecily von Ziegesar and Candace Bushnell.

If you love teenage dramas and reminiscing about ’90s and early aughts fashion and music, you’ll find much to enjoy here. Ackerman has a knack for immersion, and she weaves in her music references, fashion choices (including the tiny designer purses I once coveted in high school!) and lingo seamlessly. Brittany and her fellow Brittanys read like perfect teenage girls, never stereotypical or overdrawn, and their betrayals, alliances and dissolutions of friendship will tug at your heart like any breakup scene.

I love young adult books and the immediacy of a teen narrator, but for all its terrific dialogue and descriptions, THE BRITTANYS often suffered from an overabundance of “showing, not telling.” I said already that Ackerman excels at immersion, but occasionally she can take this attention to detail too far, dwelling too long on the minutiae of the girls’ lives rather than digging deeper and highlighting the effects of their privilege, competitiveness and journeys to womanhood. A select few passages were written in the voice of an adult Brittany looking back on her and her classmates’ wilder moments, commenting on who became a drug addict, who left to travel the world and who suffered a string of painful divorces. These passages were some of the strongest in the book, and I loved seeing what Ackerman could do with a bit more freedom to explore the lives of her characters.

Funny, heartwarming, and full of nostalgia and vivid descriptions, THE BRITTANYS is a solid read. If you’ve run out of episodes of “Pen15” or can’t stand another binge-watch of “Gossip Girl,” this is a perfect palate cleanser. But be warned that you might long for something a bit more emotionally complex when it's over.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on June 18, 2021

The Brittanys
by Brittany Ackerman

  • Publication Date: June 15, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • ISBN-10: 0593311736
  • ISBN-13: 9780593311738