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A Bad and Stupid Girl

Jean McGarry
The searching, poetic tale of emotional and intellectual discovery experienced by two young women from different worlds who come together at a Catholic girl's college


Siri is a legacy admission, rich and spoiled and destined to flunk out of her freshman year at college. Esther, her roommate, is a scholarship student from humble means, brilliant and driven to succeed.

Brought together by chance, the girls soon become partners in a struggle to find their way in a world where neither Esther's brains nor Siri's beauty is enough. Never having been forced to work hard at anything, Siri must rely on Esther to teach her to learn and attend class. But as Siri wakes from her dream world to discover the life of the mind, Esther begins shedding her rational bonds to explore the mysteries of the soul. For both, some of the most devastating lessons in the attainment of worldly knowledge come from love.

Deadpan funny and bittersweet, A Bad and Stupid Girl is above all else a moving portrait of two friends helping each other to uncover the potential splendor of their lives.

Cover image: Julia Fullerton-Batten / stone+ / Getty Images

Jean McGarry is the author of six previous books of fiction: Airs of Providence, The Very Rich Hours, The Courage of Girls, Home at Last, Gallagher's Travels, and Dream Date. She is a professor of fiction at The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. A Bad and Stupid Girl is her third novel.

Praise / Awards

  • "A Bad and Stupid Girl is a jewel of a novel, every facet perfectly placed and shining. Jean McGarry's exquisite prose leaves one breathless with admiration, and her creations remain in the reader's mind like college roommates one loved and now misses and longs to see again."
    —Eileen Pollack, judge, Michigan Literary Fiction Awards

  • "Everything in life is arbitrary yet must be over-determined in literature. Jean McGarry knows how to tell a persuasive tale illuminating these truths."
    —Harold Bloom

  • "Jean McGarry’s A Bad and Stupid Girl is an uncommonly Good and Bright-Indeed Novel, sharply written from start to finish and entertaining as Hell."
    —John Barth

  • "A gemlike portrait, A Bad and Stupid Girl takes us on a journey of epic proportions into the psyches of two young women who are both creatures of their time and heartbreakingly familiar. The novel is funny, and moving, and revelatory. It traces the evolution of an unready adulthood with unsentimental accuracy. A graceful work, full of triumph and surprise."
    —Laura Kasischke, judge, Michigan Literary Fiction Awards

  • "Jean McGarry's novel is a lovely locket of a book, with the picture inside not at all faded. Focused in close-up, succinct and convincing, it's a story about friendship and maturation, and about how our studies, alone, do not define us."
    —Ann Beattie

  • "This book is a winning reminder for nostalgic adults of just how horrible 18 could really be."
    Publishers Weekly

Look Inside

Copyright © 2006, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 5 x 8.
  • 240pp.
  • none.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2006
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11580-8

Add to Cart
  • $29.00 U.S.

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  • College roomates, legacy admission, scholarship student