A Mean Girls clone with a neurotic Indian-American heroine determined to get to the top.
Opal Mehta’s parents are so focused on getting their daughter into Harvard that they have created a full-blown plan, complete with an acronym—HOWGIH or “How Opal Will Get Into Harvard.” But when she goes for her on-campus interview, the dean of admissions tells her that her numerous accolades are not enough. He wants her to delay her application and find friends, romance and fun. The Mehtas, entirely out of their element, hatch a new plan, HOWGAL, or “How Opal Will Get A Life.” After a full-blown makeover, thousands of dollars’ worth of new clothes and an absurdly organized crash course in pop culture, Opal is on her way. She becomes one of her high school’s “it” girls, she skips class to go shopping and she even seems to be getting closer to the boy of her dreams, student council president Jeff Akel. But, of course, popularity comes with complications, and after an electronic mishap leaves her alienated, she begins to realize that there are compromises between the two Opals—and, even better, that she’ll be able to explore them with other smart, well adjusted kids as a freshman at Harvard. Viswanathan’s writing shows promise, and some of the satirical moments with Opal’s parents are priceless. But the plot is far-fetched (Harvard is concerned about an applicant’s love life?), predictable and often seems plucked from a teen movie.
Once Viswanathan, currently a Harvard sophomore, figures out how to integrate her lively voice into a more original story, she’ll be on her way.