Ambitious Girls

Y.A. author Jessica Goodman on her new novel, "They'll Never Catch Us," sisterhood, and the unbearable expectations placed on elite female athletes.


This is the free edition of Rich Text, a newsletter by Claire Fallon and Emma Gray. Rich Text is a space for the indulgent and the incisive, for witty and wistful explorations of the cultural, the personal, and the political in both written and audio formats. If you like what you see and hear, consider becoming a paid subscriber. Rich Text is a reader-supported project — no ads or sponsors!

Welcome to our third Rich Text book club! We have officially reached trend status, y’all.

For this episode, we were joined by our friend Jessica Goodman, the author of “They Wish They Were Us,” who has a twisty, page-turning new novel out this week called “They’ll Never Catch Us.” Like her fantastic first book, it’s a Y.A. thriller about murder, gossip, the terror-scape that is the high school lunchroom, and competitive young women with ambitions too big for the boxes they’re expected to fit into.

The book’s primary narrators are Stella and Ella Steckler, two sisters who are competing for the top spot on their competitive cross-country team at a high school in the Catskills — as well as athletic scholarships that could be their ticket out of town. Stella’s college hopes have already been shaken by a murky scandal from the previous season, and she’s more determined than ever to catch the eye of recruiters. When Mila Keene, a star runner from Connecticut, moves to town and begins to compete with them for dominance on the team, the girls are rattled but also drawn to Mila’s warm personality and competitive spark. Then Mila goes missing, and suspicion quickly turns to the two sisters who had most to gain from her absence in competitions. Did one of the Steckler sisters take out their competition? And if not, what happened?

In this chat, we talked about the intense pressure placed on elite female athletes, who are asked to be explosively competitive on the field while always maintaining a polite, ladylike facade; the complexity of the bond between sisters; the gentrification of the Catskills; and so much more.

You can buy the book here!

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