In this convincing, crisply written novel, Strasser tackles head-on a very real middle-school predicament―the price one can be tempted to pay for popularity. Referring to herself throughout in the second person, narrator Lauren immediately draws readers into her life as she explains that she and her best friend Tara are eating lunch in that part of the cafeteria she dubs “the realm of the socially inferior,” while the popular girls sit at the “Don’t-You-Wish-You-Were-Me table.” Though she longs to be part of the in-crowd, Lauren lacks the confidence to even attempt to belong; she refuses to wear makeup, for example, because she fears that her classmates would “snigger and say you were trying to be an A-list girl. It’s safer not to try.” The author carefully tracks the girl’s growing self-confidence after Celeste, an outgoing new girl who instantly becomes a member of the elite group, befriends Lauren and convinces her to run with her for co-treasurer in their class elections. Unlike Lauren, basking in the glow of her new popularity, readers will pick up on the numerous clues that the manipulative, plotting Celeste is hardly trustworthy. Strasser caps his story with a believable denouement, in which Lauren learns a painful lesson about the value of genuine friendship and of confidence that comes from within.
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Todd Strasser is the author of many critically acclaimed books for young adults, including the popular "Give a Boy a Gun" and "Hey, Dad, Get a Life!" He lives in New York State.From School Library Journal:
Grade 5-8-Popular Krista reigns over the cafeteria as the top DYWYWM ("Don't-You-Wish-You-Were-Me") girl and Lauren, her former best friend, sits with fellow reject, Tara. When new girl Celeste Van Werner comes on the scene, everything changes. Her confidence is unmatched even by Krista, and when she claims Lauren as her friend, the shy, tentative girl is ecstatic. The two of them work together (actually Lauren does all the work) and get elected as class co-treasurers. It takes Lauren a while to realize that Celeste is using her for a bigger goal-to take over Krista's position, which Lauren unwittingly helps her accomplish. Told in second person, this novel highlights the darker side of cliques, peer pressure and acceptance, and friendship. However, it is not entirely convincing that Lauren's lack of self-confidence would explain her blindness to Celeste's evil side. Any reader will know long before Lauren that Celeste is up to no good, causing the revelation at the end-that Celeste has stolen the class money and successfully blamed Lauren for the crime-to fall flat. The theme of friendship is fully explored, among others, but when Lauren disregards the faithful Tara simply because Celeste is one of the "chosen," she comes across as a less than worthy heroine.
Linda Bindner, Truman State University, Kirksville, MO
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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