It's Not Easy Being Bad
As the years march on, one constant changes in such a fractionally small way as to be imperceptible from one decade to the next: junior high drama. No matter where you are in the country (perhaps the world), the years between ages 12 and 15 are mentally draining for both teenagers and their parents.
The Clique series by Lisi Harrison has always done a fine job of painting the reality of the daily situations encountered by wealthy 12-year-old Massie Block and her group of friends, better known as the Pretty Committee. Harrison's most recent book in the series, IT'S NOT EASY BEING MEAN, keeps up the breakneck gossip-driven pace of Massie and her friends --- Alicia Rivera, Kristen Gregory, Dylan Marvil and the slightly out-of-place Claire Lyons, the newest addition to the Pretty Committee.
As the Pretty Committee prepares for their exit from seventh grade at upscale private school Octavian Country Day (OCD&I'm sure there's hidden meaning there), they encounter the opportunity of a teenage girl's lifetime --- the chance to gain access to "paradise." In this case, paradise is a mythical secret room that only a select group of eighth graders is allowed to know about, let alone enter. Finding the key and gaining entrance to the room pose a series of humorous and well-crafted problems for the spoiled young girls.
While some readers, both young and old, may find the characters in IT'S NOT EASY BEING MEAN artificial and impossibly too mature for their age, it's entirely plausible to imagine their vocal styling and fashion sense to be appropriate for daughters of families whose income puts them firmly in the upper extremes of the economic bell curve. Do seventh grade girls really wear Prada and Gucci while texting on Razr phones and saying things like "ah-dorable" and "ah-mazing"? The answer is a resounding "Ohmygawd, Duh!"
IT'S NOT EASY BEING MEAN will never hold the interest of boys or even girls who have left the hallowed halls of junior high behind on their quest for the even more delicate and debilitating cliques they will experience in high school. But for girls preparing to leave the world of elementary school or currently experiencing the daily chaos of hormones gone awry (aka junior high), the Clique series offers good, safe fun.
Careful thought during the reading should reveal the messages that lie beneath the obvious tales presented in these books, for indeed there is much to be learned about how to lead an exciting life in junior high while avoiding the pitfalls of trying to fit in everywhere with everyone on a daily basis.
Popularity is a really funny thing. Many of us when we are young don't belong to cliques. We find we can sit with another person just ebcause we are in the same math class as them. Its when we reach seventh grade or middle school that the cliques become definite or start to harden. Mikey and Margalo experience this like many other middle schoolers in this novel. Mikey is a petite, tough, stubborn and intimidating person. She makes those around her feel uncomfortable... that is everyone except her friend Margalo. Margalo is a tall thin "piece of clay". While she is unpopular because she hangs out with Mikey she is able to mold herself to fit in with the popular kids because she has them analyzed. She figures that popularity is all about mixing the right bit of flattery and calamity with self confidence. This novel goes through the struggles that Mikeya and Margalo face knowing that cliques are being formed and that there isn't much they can do about it. Throughout the book the reader watches Mikey and Margalo grow from these challenges. Obstacles like when Mikey's popularity halloween dinner turns into a no show party,when Mikey's petition to have seventh graders be allowed to play in eight grade sports is turned down by the principle or when Margaolo is made fun of for wearing a sweater that one of the popular kid's moms donated to a thrift shop. This book although written for a younger audience of middle schoolers provided a douse of reality when I read it. Alot of the concepts and the whole idea of maturing and defining friends is abused constantly in books. But its rare to find an author that portrays populairty and its prizes and prices so well as cynthia voigt. The message this books brings is that although we grow older and unforunately are placed into groups we can always try to change the rules and stir things up because whats life without change?