Ok, let’s get through this as quickly and painlessly as possible. There’s a series of books called The Clique. If you know Gossip Girls, it’s basically the same deal, only for middle schoolers: shockingly privileged, entitled girls who only care about fashion and popularity bitch at each other and name-drop their favorite brands. This book is the prequel to The Clique series, and I read it because my 6th graders chose it as their book club read. If I didn’t know better, I’d think they conspired to torture me.
I put “review” in quotes above because I already knew what I thought of this book before I read it. Except that I hated it even more than that. Here is a representative excerpt:
An itchy wool peacoat of sadness hung over Massie’s entire body, weighing her down with despair. She’d ditched her parents, Paris, and Chanel shopping for this? Not even one compliment on her fetching outfit/chignon/makeup/charm bracelet/brooches/or ability to pull off mixed metals had come her way. Nawt one!
Yup, I read 175 pages of that. Sober. Who’s librarian of the year now?
Here’s the best part: in this book, the characters are in fourth grade. That means they’re 9 or 10, and spending all their time worrying about popularity, designer clothes, having “friends” who will make them look good, and their freaking weight. There is one scene in which a character meets some boys who teach her to burp words, but I think that’s the only time anybody acts authentically like a fourth grader. Most of their parents set them free at an adult New Year’s party, and the only set of parents who are upset about their daughter’s behavior “punish” her by sending her to boarding school (where she will meet the rest of the characters and become even more morally bankrupt).
I don’t want to sound like the sort of bunhead shusher who thinks that all books should have Redeeming Social Value. I do understand why girls think these books are fun: they’re wish fulfillment and escapist fluff. We all need that every so often, and most kids are smart enough to recognize, at least consciously, that there’s more to life than the way Massie lives it. But if you read a steady enough diet of anything, it can’t help but seep into your subconscious, especially for kids as young as 4th-6th grade. (I grew up on a pretty steady diet of stories about True Love, and that’s another whole post, at least.) And that worries me for my impressionable young ladies, particularly the ones for whom this sort of life is possible and they have to actively choose otherwise.