From School Library Journal
Grade 7–9—When Claire heads off to Yale (early admission), she leaves her eighth-grade sister a book entitled A Field Guide to High School
. In it, she explains the key to running the social and academic gambit at their private school, and discusses the elements of each social group and the importance of knowing what not to wear. She stresses the need to choose the right people from the very start of school, and tells her how she was so successful: "By being constantly
aware of my surroundings. By keeping my friends close and my enemies closer. By striking first." Claire's voice is witty and wry and easy to read, but it lacks a personal connection. The font changes between narrator and commentary by Andi and her best friend, providing nicely spaced text. The occasional spot illustrations resemble those found in field-guide manuals, yet each one is labeled to reflect an aspect of high school (Scorpions/Spiders/Centipedes; Sophomores/Juniors/Seniors). The numerous pop-culture references and even top 10 lists enable readers to connect with the novel but it reads just like a field guide with minimal character/reader interaction.—Emily Garrett, Armstrong Elementary School, Sachse, TX
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On the morning that her perfect, overachieving sister, Claire, leaves for college, soon-to-be high-school freshman, Andie, discovers a parting gift. Claire has composed a field guide to the treacherous landscape of private high school, full of wisdom on many topics, from the school building itself to the idiosyncrasies of the various cliques. Andie and her best friend Bess' comments appear periodically, but the bulk of this novel truly is a field guide that covers the minutiae of high school, as Claire knew it. Claire has a good eye for detail, and her personal stories of her four years at Plumstead Country Day occasionally accompany her descriptions. Reading the guide, Andie begins to understand that she and her "flawless" sister share similar anxieties and concerns. Claire ends her guide with suggested reading, viewing, and listening for better understanding high school, and a final note assures Andie, and the reader, that they'll be fine. This clever concept, ideal for fans of alternate formats, is entertainingly carried out. Booth, Heather