Are you looking for a fun yet serious book to finish up the summer with? Well then Iíve got just the book for you. Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt and Other Things I Learned in Southern Belle Hell by Crickett Rumley is a simply delightful debut novel that is perfect for a last minute beach day, or a day when the fall weather is just beginning to break. On the surface, it appears like a truly simplistic novel that discusses the intricacies of the Southern Belle pageantry world but honestly, it is a bit more than that.
The main character is a girl named Jane Fontaine Ventouras, and she is not your typical Southern belle. In fact, she hates the whole idea of a Southern belle. Or in the case of her hometown of Bienville, Alabama: a Magnolia Maid. Jane hadnít been in Bienville in years due to some personal and family problems but now she has moved back with her grandmother, and before she knows it she is forced to become involved with the biggest pageant of the year. At first Jane isnít too concerned because she knows that there is no way in hell that she will become part of the actual court but surprises of all surprises, she does. Now what is a Southern rebel to do?
Being from upstate New York, I guess Iíve never given too much thought to the pageant world. I mean, Iíve known about them but, itís not the same up here. Granted we do have ďDairy PrincessĒ pageants but still Ö Iím pretty sure they are nothing compared to the pageants of the south. In a way, they are like theyíre own mysterious fantasy world, and I really did like to get a glimpse of them through the eye of Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt and Other Things I Learned in Southern Belle Hell. I loved the different characterís reactions to everything related to the pageant. Laced with hints of Southern stereotypes (but never truly over done), you had some that loved everything about it, some that were indifferent, and one in particular that was just snarky about most things. (I loved Janeís snark). Yet for me the best parts of the book came when everyone was forced to take things seriously regardless of how they really felt about it.
Why did I enjoy this the most? I think it was because it gave all the characters room to move and breath and just be themselves. All of the belles that were involved with the pageant were each individually fleshed out so that you knew what their characteristics were like. †The different characteristics of the characters brought forth different clashes and issues which ultimately wound up strengthening the group as a whole. Together, they get into so many shenanigans that it was impossible not to love them all and enjoy them as they bonded. Trust me; some of the trouble they get into together is absolutely hilarious!
Yet this book isnít all hilarity, fun, and games. It also touches upon some deeper issues as well. These smaller issues arenít always directly in your face but they are important none of the less. For example, the issue of racism, classism, and diversity within the pageant system is very much acknowledged. †This is the first year that the Maids have not all been white, blonde, and thin. This is huge not only for the pageant itself but also the community. It was very interesting to read peopleís responses to the picking of the Maids, and how it is all dealt with. All of the Magnolia Maids go through some personal trials and tribulations throughout the book, and it was fun as a reader to watch them grow and develop as individuals and as friends.
All in all, I enjoyed reading Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt and Other Things I Learned In Southern Belle Hell. There were a few parts that I did feel could have used a bit more development but, I still couldnít help but laugh and smile over the antics of the characters. I sincerely recommend this debut to anyone who is looking for something to make them smile and brighten up a gloomy day. Trust me; I donít think yaíll will be disappointed!
Disclosure: Purchased copy.
Other Reviews of Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt and Other Things I Learned in Southern Belle Hell:
Frenetic Reader: “It could have used more development in many of the smaller story lines, but I still found Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt and Other Things I Learned in Southern Belle Hell to be wonderfully humorous and smart in dealing with big issues.”
April’s Review: “This is a great book with humor and heart.“