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Barbara Altamirano
The Mommy Clique
When Beth Tapia moves back to her hometown to take care of her ailing mother, she hopes to make a few mom friends and have better memories than from her childhood. Little did she know that much like high school, she was entering the lion's den. Beth soon discovers the suburb is ruled by a clique of thirty-something moms who spend their time maintaining their social hierarchy by playing ruthless games dictated by the queen bee. To her horror, after attending a disastrous party, Beth learns she had become what everyone wanted to avoid: the target.
In this dishy beach read, debut author Altamirano updates the high school clique for a more adult audience in this twist on a teen-story standby. When Beth, married mother of two, moves back to the Connecticut suburb of her youth to care for her sick mother, she’s confronted by the social “ghosts of [her] youth” in the form of an elite squad of moms at the bus stop, a tight-knit friend group into which one must be “inducted” rather than simply join. Queen Mom Elise encourages her minions to go through the “initiation” game with Beth, which means making her life miserable in surprising ways. Secrets fly and trust is broken as each mom in the group asks herself whether all this is worth ensuring their first-grade daughters end up on the right end of the social stratum, where Elise’s daughter leads.

Some say that you never really get away from the high school social stratosphere, and Altamirano’s take on the mean girl clique may convince readers that there’s truth in that, especially as a nervous Beth tries to make sense of the group–and to fit in. Altamirano exaggerates in-group behavior, where a smirk can devastate, an invite is actually a command, and dirt is power. While the arc of the plot is familiar, Elise’s group goes further than readers might expect, drawing gasps and dropping jaws with cruelties and humiliations best left unspoiled.

Audiences will sympathize with Altamirano’s characters, except for Elise, who plays the mean-girl role as if she’s bucking for the state championship. It’s easy to identify with Beth, of course, but also some in Elise’s squad–and to hope above all else that these women come to their senses and stand up to Elise’s insidious games, which ultimately will put marriages (and not just friendships) to the test. Crisp comic dialogue and a feel for awkward social dynamics help this one stand out.

Takeaway: This polished beach read updates high school’s mean girls to mean moms, ruling a suburb.

Great for fans of: Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars, Lisi Harrison’s The Clique series.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A