Monday, February 28, 2011

Boys, Girls & Other Hazardous Materials by Rosalind Wiseman

The author of the book that inspired the movie Mean Girls comes out with a novel that switches from mean girls to mean boys and the world of hazing. The novel starts out being so typical it was not memorable, but it turns around...a bit.

Charlie is the new girl (that's right - girl) in school after she decided to go to a different high school than her 8th grade class in order to get away from her bully friends. She's surprised to see her former best friend Will who moved away a few years ago and Nidhi - a girl from 8th grade who was an unfortunate victim of Charlie's former friends Lauren and Ally. The new school, though, is a new start for Charlie as past mistakes are forgiven with Nidhi and she reconnects with Will. In the meantime, she falls for Tyler - a friend of Will's and his fellow soccer and lacrosse player. Typical high school live ensues - including the disappointment that the boy she likes doesn't like her. Then, the mean boy dynamic come through as Tyler and Will try to get accepted in the lacrosse team and are ordered around/humiliated by the upperclassmen. Tyler also becomes a mean boy as he lashes out a girl who rejected him. Charlie, worried about Will though, warns him about getting too involved in the hazing and Tyler's immature behaviors. It all escalates to an almost fatal accident where Charlie has to decide whether to expose the players or keep her mouth shut since lacrosse players are worshiped in the school - even by teachers.

It takes a while for the book to get truly interesting since it is so typical and unmemorable. For a while I kept waiting for the "mean boys" to appear and that wasn't really until the second half of the book. It was briefly mentioned in the beginning, but not much really happened. I almost felt that this book would have done a better job showing the troubles if it had been written from Will's perspective instead of Charlie's. With Charlie telling the story it's all a reaction to things she's seeing and stories she's hearing. If Will told the story, the audience would have seen things first hand. But I can't rewrite the story so I'll just have to deal. I think the author did a good job of showing Charlie's struggle at the end. Many times athletes are worshipped in schools to the point that they can do no wrong. If she told, she'd get Will in trouble and she risked no one believing her - which does happen. There is also a good comparison of of mean girls vs mean boys as Charlie reflects upon her friendships last year.

This book could have been better. Showing it from Will's perspective definitely would have done a better job allowing the reader to experience the hazing. Also, it could have picked up the pace and gotten to the point quicker. A little less adjusting to a new school and typical high school life would have captured my attention a bit more. Then again, I'm not a teenager, so maybe the pacing is just fine for that generation.

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