From Publishers Weekly
In contrast to the recent spate of books that focus on bullying (e.g., Rosalind Wiseman's Queen Bees and Wannabees and Rachel Simmons's Odd Girl Out), Washington Post education reporter Perlstein examines all facets of being an ordinary "tween." She discusses such issues as consumerism (according to Perlstein, 12- to 15-year-olds spend on average $59 a week, not counting money their parents spend on them); romance, which doesn't necessarily imply the couple ever spends time alone together; and the phenomenon of instant messaging-all to give parents of young children an idea of what lies ahead. True, much can be learned from reading catalogues and magazines geared specifically to preteens, like Delia's catalogue, CosmoGIRL! and YM, but Perlstein delves deeper into how boys and girls view life by tracking five students at Wilde Lake Middle School in Columbia, Md., a "rough" suburban school in an affluent area. Her subjects include the likable eighth-grader Eric Ellis, who is very bright and very bored, and seventh-graders Jackie Taylor, who is learning to deal with crushes on boys, and Elizabeth Ginsburg, whose favorite answer to her parents' questions is "nothing." There are also sixth-graders Jimmy Schissel, who is unhappy with his changing body, and Lily Mason, who worries about wearing-and doing-the right thing. In addition to details about the children's confirmations, bat mitzvahs, friendships and homework, Perlstein interweaves information about how middle-school children learn best and what parents can do to help.
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From School Library Journal
In this groundbreaking study, Perlstein chronicles the frightening and fascinating lives of the kids, teachers, and parents she grew to know intimately during a year in Columbia, MD. She introduces Eric, a bright but unmotivated African-American boy hobbled by his home life, and Elizabeth, an overachieving only child whose doting folks try to help her navigate a year of competitive swimming, her Bat Mitzvah, and pressures none of them really comprehend. She also profiles Jackie, who has become so "relationship" obsessed that her world resembles a soap opera. Sixth-graders Jimmy, whose body changes have him simultaneously terrified and thrilled, and Lily, who agonizes over what constitutes "cool" in a world where nothing makes sense anymore, are just beginning to move into the mysterious hall of mirrors that is middle school. Deft writing punctuated by well-documented observations bring these people and the depths of their challenges to life. In this subculture of suffocating peer pressure, burgeoning sexuality, obsessive gaming, gay bashing, and "IM"ing, no one emerges unscathed. Readers will emerge more knowledgeable, more understanding, and more than a little concerned for the future of all of us.-Mary R. Hofmann, Rivera Middle School, Merced, CA
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