Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt and Other Things I Learned in Southern Belle Hell

Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt and Other Things I Learned in Southern Belle Hell

4.5 8
by Crickett Rumley

Expelled from thirteen boarding schools in the past five years, seventeen-year-old Jane Fontaine Ventouras is returning to her Southern roots, and the small town of Bienville, Alabama, where ladies always wear pearls, nothing says hospitality like sweet tea and pimento cheese sandwiches, and competing in the annual Magnolia Maid Pageant is every girl’s


Expelled from thirteen boarding schools in the past five years, seventeen-year-old Jane Fontaine Ventouras is returning to her Southern roots, and the small town of Bienville, Alabama, where ladies always wear pearls, nothing says hospitality like sweet tea and pimento cheese sandwiches, and competing in the annual Magnolia Maid Pageant is every girl’s dream.

But Jane is what you might call an anti-belle—more fishnets and tattoos than sugar and spice. The last thing on her mind is joining the Magnolia Maid brigade and parading around town in a dress so big she can’t even fi t through doors. So when she finds herself up to her ears in ruffl es and etiquette lessons, she’s got one mission: Escape.

What’s a hipster to do? Will Jane survive Bienville boot camp intact or will they—gasp!—make a Southern belle out of her yet?

Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Sarah Cofer
Seventeen-year-old Jane Fontaine Ventouras begrudgingly moves back to Bienville, Alabama, after being kicked out of thirteen boarding schools. Jane is a girl with issues: her mother died of ALS, her father has checked out, and she has never forgotten Luke Churchville, the boy she was caught kissing when her father sent her away. As a way to rehabilitate Jane, her grandmother convinces her to try out for the Magnolia Maid pageant. It should be every southern girl's dream to wear a $7,000 antebellum dress and serve as "Bienville's ambassadress to the world," but Jane is the anti-belle who lacks all grace and femininity. Southern pandemonium erupts when the judges diversify the sixtieth court and choose unseemly Jane and a few other unconventional finalists, including the first African American maid. Jane is an apathetic maid until the head advisor, unhappy about the ill-advised selection process, asks her to quit, igniting Jane's combative nature. She decides to fight fire with fire by undergoing a Southern Belle makeover and becoming the most perfect Magnolia Maid that ever existed. This fun and fast-paced book reads like a Reese Witherspoon movie, complete with Southern drawl, angst-filled romance, and happy ending. While both cliche and predictable, it easily engages readers who will root for Jane. By the end of the book, Jane drops her tough girl facade and productively deals with her issues. Themes like standing up for what you believe in, being true to yourself, and working as a team resonate. It contains some adult language and underage drinking, but nothing too mature for the middle school crowd. Reviewer: Sarah Cofer
Kirkus Reviews

Fresh from a series of boarding-school expulsions, Jane, 17, returns to Bienville, Ala., to cap her high-school career.

Residing with Grandmama, who is intent on turning her into a Southern Belle, Jane enters a longstanding beauty—sorry, achievement—pageant, introducing the cream of wealthy, white Bienville maidenhood to society. She's appalled to be selected as one of five Magnolia Maids; but times are changing. Recovering from a massive oil spill and seeking to attract investment, town leaders hope to project a modern, diverse (post-Emancipation) image. Along with traditional belles Ashley and Mallory, this year's Maids include Zara, daughter of the African-American communications tycoon who's bringing needed jobs to his hometown; Brandi Lyn, representing Bienville's disadvantaged residents; and Jane, straddling categories. (Her mom was a town blueblood; her Greek shipping-magnate dad anything but.) When not engaged in Maid duties, Jane obsesses over Luke Churchville, whom she was sent to boarding school to get away from but never stopped thinking about. While diversity is easier to say than practice, the girls discover sisterhood is powerful, and getting even with two-timing boyfriends while wearing hoopskirts is a great leveler. (For best results, avoid vodka.)

Briskly sending up fraying Southern social traditions, this hilarious debut celebrates one value that's universal: true friendship. (Fiction. 12 & up)

School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Jane Ventouras's mother died when Jane was in fifth grade; since then, her shipping-mogul father has shipped her off to 13 elite boarding schools, and she's been kicked out of all 13 of them. As a result, the 17-year-old ends up back in her hometown of Bienville, AL. When her grandmother signs her up for the Magnolia Maid pageant, Jane, the anti-belle, does all she can to avoid being chosen, but when her plans fail and she is named to the court, she must decide if she will accept this position with grace or bring about the downfall of Bienville's grandest tradition before the Maids even make their big debut. At the same time, Jane is trying to figure out if she still has feelings for Luke Churchill, the boy who was her best friend and first kiss before her father sent her away. This breezy read set on the Gulf coast will appeal to readers who love a good friendship story with a mean girl and a little romance in the mix. Jane and the other Maids struggle with one another amid family issues, high fashion, and big money. While troubles arise, friendship wins out and girl power prevails. Offer this to readers who like their chick-lit with a little sweet tea and a lot of Southern sass.—Gina Bowling, South Gibson County High School, Medina, TN

Product Details

Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)
770L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Crickett Rumley graduated with an MFA in film from Columbia University and teaches screenwriting at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles. As a screenwriter, she adapted Susan Taylor Chehak’s Smithereens for Killer Films and Julia Alvarez’s “The Suitor” for Gigantic Pictures and PBS. Crickett’s experiences growing up in the South inspired this debut novel. Though she now lives in California with her crazy little dog, Crickett is constantly plotting ways to get home to the Pamlico River in eastern North Carolina for barbecue, sweet tea, and Aunt Vail’s rum cake.

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Never Sit down in a Hoopskirt and Other Things I Learned in Southern Belle Hell 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
windsong More than 1 year ago
One of the first things that stood out to in NEVER SIT DOWN IN A HOOPSKIRT was voice. Jane has this incredibly wonderful voice. She's the girl that's been expelled from 13 boarding schools in five years, and would be the least likely suspect in a beauty pageant lineup. And she'd only applied to be a Magnolia Maid--the beauty pageant of the town--because her grandma asked her to. Imagine her surprise, not to mention the entire town of Bienville, Alabama, when she's nominated to be a maid. Along with two others who aren't suited to the community's idea of a perfect maid, and Jane's arch nemesis Ashley and her head minion. I really loved that the program director finally had the courage to go against established ideas of what made the perfect magnolia maid. Prior to this, the maids were all white, uppercrust, perfectly mannered young ladies. But this year's maids only had two (Ashley and Mallory) that fit those qualifications. Of the remaining three, one had a tattoo and a bad attitude (Jane), one was poor (Brandi Lyn), and one was black (Zara). And the runner up (Caroline) was overweight and preferred books to pageants. It was very interesting to see the town's response as well as that of the girls themselves. I think Crickett Rumley did an excellent job of creating the group's dynamics. They felt real. Nothing came easy. All of the girls had flaws, but after the whole pageant crumbles apart, were able to come together in the end. I really enjoyed the characters. They all had their own quirks and felt like real individuals. Jane starts out as a rebellious ringleader, and in the process of becoming a Maid, learns a lot about herself and what it meant to be her mother's daughter. Ashley had had her eye on the crown since she was five-years-old, and has lived the next twelve as the epitome of what it meant to be a Southern belle. But with her court so full of unsuitables, she learns what it means to be compassionate and that maybe living on a pedestal isn't what it's cracked up to be. Mallory, Ashley's right-hand minion, is in the awkward position of having a secret that would devastate Ashley. And after the secret comes out, she's able to come into her own a little more. Zara has a secret of her own that is threatened after the other Maids, under direction of Jane and some heavy "spirits", get in the car to have their revenge on certain deserving boys. She learns the hard way that the rule about not driving in a hoopskirt was instituted for a very good reason. Brandi Lyn is a seventeen-year-old version of Pollyanna. She's excited to be a maid, and even when she finds out that she has to cough up 7 grand on a dress she can't afford, she's determined to find a way. She's never met a fabric she couldn't work with, until now. And Caroline, caught up between reality and trying to please her overbearing mother who also happens to be running the pageant. The only thing that gave me a little pause was the voice of a very minor character. Teddy Mac's voice was a little stereotypical for me, but his character is big and flamboyant and fashionable. So it might just be me. Out of five stars, I give this one a solid four. I really enjoyed the voice, the characters, the coming of age story, and what it means to be a queen. Contains moderate swearing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It wraps up all of the high school drama and stereo types into one and gives a southern belle kiss:*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was at my library, saw this book and couldnt resist. Its one of the funniest books ive read andthe main charecter is juat so ridiculus!
lovelylane More than 1 year ago
This story, about a rebellious southern belle, intrigued me from the very beginning. Being something of a yankee, anything about southern culture draws me in. This book is no exception. The quality of writing in this book is fantastic--the main character's voice is strong and consistent, and by the first five pages I wanted to learn everything about her, and her opinions on everything. This book is well suited for a younger age group, so since I'm 20 I'm a little too old to be reading this. Nevertheless, I found it enjoyable. I only gave this book three stars, though, because it was predictable. The reader can see the ending coming from a 150 pages away. (And considering this book is 203 pages, that's saying something.) With this caliber of writing, I must admit I expected a little bit more. But that isn't to say it isn't worth the read! If one wants to lose themselves in a cute, spunky novel, then I definitely recommend giving it a chance.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Gold Star Award Winner! Jane's been kicked out of more boarding schools than she can count. She's come home to Bienville, Alabama, to live with her grandmother. Suddenly, everyone's talking about her. Hoping to fly under the radar, she's unhappy when her grandmother guilts her into participating in the local pageant. To Jane's horror, she actually makes the Court. Now, she must complete a year of appearances, fund raising, and attending balls with her fellow Maids. For the first time ever, the Court displays the diversity of the town. Jane can't help but make waves on the Court when her arch-nemesis, Ashley, starts putting girls down. Although she has no desire to participate in the events, when the pageant advisor asks her to step down, she's more determined than ever to becomes the perfect Magnolia Maid. She changes from Goth to Southern Belle in a heartbeat and reigns in her sarcasm. I really loved this book. I loved Jane's snark and wit, and I loved how she takes control of the Magnolia Maids and changes the group dynamic. I love the group of girls who make up the Maids - they're so different! While Jane presents a tough exterior, her family past left deep emotional wounds. She's determined, stubborn, and stands up for people and her beliefs. Most of the time, her heart's in the right place, even if the situation goes awry - which it does often. I LOVE the humor, the friendship, and the touch of romance. This one's a winner!