What do you get when you take four females with different backgrounds, personalities, and experiences and center a novel around every giggle, every boy, every argument, and every hug? Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants? Sex and the City? Not quite…

Commencement, the debut novel by J. Courtney Sullivan, follows Sally, Bree, April and Celia as they forge an intense bond with one another in the halls of a Smith College dormotory. Spanning from their first year at this all-girl university to the geographically and demographically different paths they take after graduation, this book is more than just “chick-lit”. While the author gives her girls “female” issues to tackle such as men, dating, marriage, careers, and babies, she also addresses family issues, feminism, identity struggles, and even sex crimes making this “gaggle of girls” read quite refreshing. On her website (which, by the way, features fun goodies like videos of Smith convocations from 1940 and 2008) Sullivan elaborates on the feminist undertones that exist within the novel:

…I certainly didn’t set out to write a book about feminism, per se. I wanted to tell a story about the first generation of American women to have all the choices in the world laid out before them; a gift that is wholly incredible and a little bit terrifying. I was about the same age as the women in the book while I was writing it, and I watched my girlfriends struggling with choices: Who to love. How to work. Where to begin.


These things combined with the candor and honesty with which Commencement addresses the complexities of female friendship made this book not just a fun read for this member of the book’s target demographic —  I felt a lot less guilty about reading it! Enjoyable and thought provoking, this will surely spark discussion among your female patrons.


Commencement is not your average "chick-lit"

Category: ReviewsStaff Picks


  • Oh I definitely want to read this! I reminds me (slightly) of the book Prep – it wasn’t your average chick lit college book, it had deeper undertones. Anyway, I definitely want to get this once it comes out – I have a weakness for college stories!

  • As an alum of a Seven Sisters school (Wellesley) I’m definitely interested- I don’t know that I’ve seen the women’s-college experience captured yet.

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