Book excerpt: “Tracy Flick Can’t Win” by Tom Perrotta


Tracy Flick, the ambitious young protagonist who campaigned for high school president in Tom Perrotta’s 1998 novel “Election” (memorably played by Reese Witherspoon in the film version) is back in Perrotta’s sequel, “Tracy Flick Can’t Win” (Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, a division of Paramount Global).

In this darkly comic tale set more than two decades later, Flick, an assistant principal in a suburban New Jersey high school (and just as ambitious as ever), finds herself angling for the top job.

Read an excerpt below.



I never wanted to be famous, not really. It was more that fame was the necessary precondition for, and inevitable byproduct of, the thing I really did want, which was to be the first woman President of the United States.

I know, there’s nothing more pathetic than a person talking about a dream that never happened, one that never even came close. It just makes you look like a fool. But being President wasn’t some girlish fantasy of mine, some cute little idea that dissolved at the first contact with reality.

Being President was my ambition, not my dream.

There’s a difference.

And it wasn’t a crazy ambition. Whatever it is that a person needs to reach a goal like that, I had it in me, I know I did. Even back in high school. Especially then. I was smart, I was tough, I had an incredible capacity for hard work, and I believed in myself. No Imposter Syndrome for me. And beyond that was my actual superpower, which was that I wanted it more than anyone else. Trust me, you didn’t want to get in my way.

I could see the path laid out in front of me. I graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Georgetown, and worked as a congressional intern for one glorious summer. I remember how amazing that felt, flashing my ID, nodding to the security guard as I entered the Capitol Building in my navy blue pants suit, like I’d willed it to happen, like I’d granted own secret wish.

I went straight from undergrad to law school, also at Georgetown, because I knew what I wanted and where I needed to be.

I saw myself as a budding prosecutor. Those were years when being tough on crime was considered a virtue, and that suited me just fine. I liked rules and laws—I still do—and I believed that people who broke them should be punished to the fullest extent possible. Eventually a high profile case would come my way, and I would go on TV and talk about order and justice and the righteous vengeance of the state, and people would remember my name. When the time was right, I would run for office. Congresswoman Flick. Senator Flick. Attorney General Flick. And who knows, maybe even…

Then I got the phone call.


Excerpted from “Tracy Flick Can’t Win” by Tom Perrotta. Copyright © 2022 by Tom Perrotta. Reprinted with permission of Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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