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VINE VOICEon January 30, 2010
Two paragraphs of disclosure will make my review more meaningful. I was a happy, well-adjusted 5th and 6th grader. New to my elementary school in the 5th grade, I quickly and easily found a best friend + nice group of friends. Then the following year in junior high, two "queen bees" came along and decided they wanted the same group of friends, best friend and all--without me in it. They invited the other girls to a sleepover party right in front of me, and suddenly I was friendless. Devastated, I came home that day sobbing, to parents who had no idea what to do except to send me to a psychiatrist, which did no good at all.

My "lunch tray moments" consisted of going from table to table, trying to sit down, and kids telling me I wasn't welcome to sit with them, and then eating by myself in the detention room, the only place that would have me. My "gym class moments" consisted of being the girl left over when the last team captain chose the second-to-last girl, and then the other team captain declaring she never picked me and that I was not on her team. I adapted first making friends with the neighborhood dogs who all accepted me with love and dignity, and then by getting involved with out-of-school activities and making lots of friends outside of school. By 10th grade, I had friends at school again.

It is with this background that I read "Queen Bees and Wanna Bees"--the book I wish had been around in the 1970s when I suffered the trauma of being a target. I am appalled that these dynamics continue to this day, and that targets have it WORSE than I did. When I got home, the bullying stopped, and I was free to do my homework, not to be bullied until bright and early the next day. Now the bullying of targets is CONSTANT, via Facebook, email, text message, etc. Mothers and Dads, PLEASE take the plight of the targets seriously--it's not just a bit of girl drama--it's BRUTAL to experience.

I am relieved an adult finally took notice of these dynamics, understands them, and not only explains them to parents, she them what to do about it and how to PREVENT it. Wiseman advises parents to create a code of family behavior where family members treat people with dignity, outside the family as well as with. An example is the first chapter on technology, new to this revised edition. Parents are advised when they allow adolescents and teens to have email accounts, Facebook accounts, cell phones, etc. that they sign a family contract which explains they will not use these technologies to embarrass people, humiliate them, spread lies, disseminate naked- or half-naked photos, etc. And the contract specifies punishments for first, second, and third offenses. I think this entire chapter shows brilliance, and is worth the price of the book alone.

It's not just the parents of the target who need this book, but the parents of the queen bee bullies and people users, and the bystanders who stand there silently, not taking a stand on behalf of the targets, and rewarding the queen bees with their allegiance and friendship. For example, there's an example in the book of how to talk to your daughter after she paid a popular boy $5.00 to ask out a target and then dump her the next day. The hypothetical mom marches her daughter over to apologize to the target, and tells her daughter, "If you apologize with a fake or mean tone in your voice or the content of your words comes across as giving a fake apology, then I will apologize on your behalf. And since you did it at school, you are also going to apologize to your teacher and principal for going against the school's rules of treating people with dignity."

Another important concept of the book is to realize that girls within cliques deal with the straightjacket of conformity--hair, clothes, hobbies, behavior, etc, and often put up with verbal abuse from the queen bees. These girls internalize that it's better to put up with abuse than be ostracized from the group. This sets the stage for them to become women who put up with abusive relationships rather than leave.

As much as I don't like to deduct a star from this must-read book, the presentation is uneven. Parts of the book are totally brilliant, while other parts appear scant and hastily written. For example, Wiseman describes different types of parents. Some of these types just have a few sentences written about them and no concrete examples. Plus she misses a lot of types. Or there will be teasers, "If She Says `You Don't Trust Me!'" but no follow up on how to handle this comment.

My main grievance with the book is that I think Wiseman is way too overpermissive in letting a girl wear whatever she wants. I can understand Wiseman's arguments for letting a girl wear green hair, or be Goth if she wants to be. But going out of the house looking too sexy at too young an age? Wiseman says to discuss it with her, but then let her do what she wants. No way! Wiseman wants parents to put their foot down when it comes to the appropriate use of technology, but she becomes meek and overpermissive when it comes to inappropriate wardrobe. Also, when your daughter says she "needs" the latest greatest expensive shoes or purse, parents are supposed to understand how crucial this is for her and to not always say no to these request. IMO, when parents give into this high fashion nonsense, they're training their daughters to be materialistic, manipulative, and spendy. So many parents are afraid to say "no" to their child beginning at age 2, they create these entitled fashion snobs we see today.

If more parents had and enforced a code of behavior, not only how to treat people in the household, but out of the house, our schools and our world would be a better place. Likewise, I'd like to see school teachers and administrators read this book, and come up with codes of anti-bullying behavior where everyone at the school treats everyone else with dignity. If and when more adults get on board with anti-bullying, school will not only be physically and emotionally a safer place, but students more able to learn and compete academically with students from other nations.

P.S. My personal story has a happy ending. In addition to being happily married to the best husband in the world and having lots of friends, I've reconnected with my former best friend, and am now friends with one of the queen bees. It doesn't pay to hold grudges. :-)
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on October 3, 2012
The roles within the clique were interesting, and somewhat accurate, but the book assumes that every girl fits neatly into one of them, when this is often not the case. Some girls are not in the clique, but not a target, either. Others may be friends with multiple groups and play different roles in each one. The teenage social scene is just not as clearcut as the book makes it out to be.

The first issue that I had with this book was with the "quotes" from teenaged girls. I'll just come out and say that I don't buy that they're authentic. Teenage girls don't talk this way. I got the impression that a lot of the quotes were either heavily edited to fit the points Wiseman wanted to make or fabricated altogether.

The next problem I had was with the shockingly bad advice given. Wiseman advises that girls being shut out or bullied should handle the teasing like mature adults by directly addressing it, telling the mean girl it hurts their feelings and they want it to stop, and then "affirming" the teaser and their relationship. Like someone else said, the mean girls would have a field day with this. They'd think it was hilarious and it would just lead to more humiliation for the target. For example, she encourages the target to approach the mean girl and say, "Hi, there's something I really need to talk to you about. Can you meet me during study hall in the library at 11:00?" In her scenario, the mean girl actually agrees, and the target proceeds to have a private meeting where she tells the girl she wants her to stop teasing her, saying things like, "[Teasing] really hurts me. I wanted it stopped. I don't know why you don't like me. I would like us to be civil to each other and respect each other."

She fails to take into account the fact that in real life, the mean girl would laugh in the target's face when she requested the meeting and then relentlessly mock and ridicule her to the rest of the clique, especially if the meeting actually happened (it probably wouldn't) and the target delivered that speech. Advising your child to do this is just setting her up for more ridicule and humiliation. It exacerbates the problem instead of resolving it.

That's just the thing Wiseman doesn't seem to get. Teens aren't mature adults, and what works for an adult isn't going to work for a 13 year old "target" who is being ostracized by the school bitch. She's also too quick to encourage parents not to get involved unless it's a last resort. In some of these situations, the best possible thing, and only thing that will be effective, is for the parent to get involved and put a stop to it immediately. Not wait until the abuse from the mean girl has become so unbearable that it's your last resort.

I came away from the book feeling that Wiseman doesn't understand teen girls or the middle and high school social scene nearly as well as she seems to think she does.
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on June 26, 2012
I first read this book as a younger teen and now am reading it again at the age of 19 to see if my opinions have changed.

After watching Mean Girls and hearing about this book that was the basis for the movie I was immediately interested simply because the movie was hilarious and quite dramatic. At the time i had no idea that it was a guide for parents. Upon buying the book and finding this out, I felt like I was getting the inside scoop on what parents are thinking when they communicate and deal with their adolescents. I must say, the book is shocking. As a girl who has been living in Jamaica my entire life except for the two years i lived in Canada (at an age too young to compare to situations in the book), I have never really experienced any such horrid situations, and I have attended a public high school as well as a private high school. My friends and I often have conversations in which we express how baffled we are at the behaviour and thoughts of American girls. Based on images of American girls we are presented with in the media and books like these we are amazed at how mean, insecure, self destructive, lost, and/or weak these girls seem to be. This book can neither be applied to my own life nor the lives of any girl I know in Jamaica. We read about or see these situations on TV and go "What?! these girls are crazy!!".

I'm not saying this is the opinion of all Jamaican girls and I am not saying all American girls are like this, but I can definitely speak for all the girls I know who live here (excluding perhaps the girls at the American International School of Kingston because in my experience they are quite Americanized and cannot be considered as average Jamaican girls).

So the book was a good buy in the sense that it is interesting to read about these EXTREME experiences that American girls go through, in the same way that it is entertaining to watch the movie Mean Girls. However, I would never let my parents read this book, lest they should think that all the things mentioned are happening in my life and at my school, which they are not.

I also do not like how the author lumps teenage girls into specific stereotypes and characters. It annoys me in the same way I am annoyed when adults say "teenagers these days" followed by something negative that 99% of the time does not apply to me and does not apply to most of my friends. Also the section where she talks about Black girls and she speaks in a 'did you know' style is quite disturbing. She says that the long beautiful braids that Black girls/women wear are hair extensions which cost hundreds of dollars and take hours to put in. Firstly, not all braids are hair extensions. As a matter of fact, in Jamaica, most adolescents' braids are natural because most schools here do not allow hair extensions. And hardly anyone pays that much for hair extensions. I have never worn hair extensions in my entire life and I never will.

Anyway, the point is that the book does not apply to all teenagers and it is dangerous in the hands of any parent whose teen or adolescent is not actually doing these things and having these experiences.
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on November 11, 2009
I started reading this book and my only thought was, "holy crap, this kind of stuff cannot really be happening in middle school!" But I sat down my 14-year-old daughter, and sure enough, this book is right on. Which is scary. If you thought middle school was bad before, you can't believe it now.

This book is rather terrifying. But unlike a lot of parenting books (especially those that are more like studies of all the things that are going wrong with kids nowadays), this book has tons of practical help. There are great ideas to help your daughter navigate the shark-infested waters of teenager-hood. (I wish I'd had this book a few years ago when we were enduring a particularly nasty fifth grade year.)

This book will definitely help me to help my three daughters survive and thrive during their pre-teen and teenage years. I have recommended it to everyone I know with daughters. If you buy one book this year, make it this one!
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on November 17, 2013
Really didn't find this book all that true to life nor did it give off any real survival skills for young girls that could really be understood. Didn't seem to be based on any real life experiences, just ideas. Have never experienced any of this as a child or as raising a child.
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on June 5, 2014
I bought this book because I have 3 teenagers and wondered if this would provide insight into their world. This book may be a help comfort the overly sensitive parents and teens who feel like "targets," but that is all. It is too stereotypical, focuses on a certain middle-class value system that, at least for my family, has disappeared.

No, I am anything but an uptight churchgoer, but teaching your daughter to hold her friend's hair back so that she can barf after drinking without getting dirty gets a strange mention in this book. Also, it makes the assumptions that your children will have sex, drink and be mean to others and you, as a parent, are there to navigate them through these processes.

Nowhere does the book explain how to instill critical thinking skills in your child, or how to change the nature of mean teens, but instead focuses on damage control. I don't need some idiot telling me what to do when I catch my daughter having sex--not because I won't deal with it, but because her way of dealing with it is just not that smart.
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on October 22, 2015
My granddaughter was having problems with some of the girls in her 8th grade class. She said this book really helped her adjust to the various personalities and thinks it should be read by all girls to help them understand too!
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on November 30, 2009
As a recently retired middle school and Jr Hi educator with a masters degree plus and a grandmother of 2 girls, 12 and 7, I devoured this book and sent it on to my son (the father of the girls) and sister who has an 11 year old. This book tackles the technology issues that coexist with just "growing up" from a knowledgable and uncomplicated references to the damage that cell phones and computer websites can have on young women and girls. I wish I had had access to this in the early 2000's so I could have been more helpful for the students I worked with. Not only does this author bring to life these issues, but she gives many ways to help girls get through this in a more ego friendly, less damaging way. The book cannot just be read by parents as an easy read for themselves, but needs to be read with the child and teach them the techniques that author has provided to help girls "walk away from" gossip and mean peers with a sense of pride, success and understanding of her place in her social world.
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on December 23, 2012
I think that this book offers many insights and has helped me gain closure over some things that have happened to me when I was that age. I also don't think that these topics disappear in adulthood, I think they just evolve into something else. I think the best part of this book was the categories of different girls. The Queen Bee is the most popular/pretty/cool/stylish girl in school. She is not intimidated by the other girls and has power over them. What do the other girls do to gain power? Some girls become her best friend and passively go along with her every action. Being the wing woman for the most powerful girl in school makes them powerful by association. What do you do when you are not pretty/cool enough to be the wing woman? You become the banker, whose currency is gossip. Somehow you know everything about everyone, especially the popular girls. Maybe you gain power by being the messenger. You pretend to diffuse drama by being the messenger between two conflicting parties. This makes you feel powerful and gives you the illusion of being the center of attention. Maybe you don't fit in and you gravitated towards the other girls who don't fit in. Although the author claims that these girls have the most meaningful relationships, I beg to differ. The girls who don't fit in with a clique usually don't fit in with each other either. There are so many different reasons why someone does not fit in. Maybe one girl is totally brilliant and is above everyone's head. Maybe another girl wears her grandma's hand-me-downs and is oblivious to the fact that she dresses in an odd way and is deterring others from being her friend. Maybe another girl is really outspoken and does not realize she hurts other people's feelings.

I got the feeling while reading this book that the author was very misguided herself growing up, was a mean girl, and is now projecting her guilt on to you, the reader. She is preachy and tells you how to raise your kids because she doesn't know how to raise kids herself. She did not get proper guidance growing up and now she became the "expert" and feels powerful, important and absolved of guilt by telling you what to do. Just a thought. I also believe she injected a lot of her opinions into this book. For example, some of her views on feminism and music seemed highly subjective to me.

I do really like this book for shedding light on a subject that lies in the darkness: girl drama, bullying and growing up. I did not understand for a very long time why some girls stopped being my friend, why some girls never wanted to be my friend to begin with, why some girls wouldn't stand up to a mean girl and were just pretending that they were diffusing a fight by saying, "I just want to be friends with everyone and I'm not taking sides"...when in reality, it made them feel powerful and in the center of it all, why some girls mindlessly agreed with everything the other girls said and why some girls used me to meet other friends and then disposed of me afterwards. The reason was all the same: they were climbing the social hierarchy. They stepped on me to gain power, which was popularity. I do not know why I was so naive and never understood our falling outs. They never valued my friendship and they stepped on me to get power because they feared being powerless, which means running out of friends and never getting invited to parties and having nothing to do on weekends. I also found it very insightful that a social hierarchy is maintained when someone is CLEARLY on the bottom. This girl is in the most precarious position and can get kicked out of the group at any time. If the Queen Bee views her as a threat, she will have enough power to kick that girl out in a heart beat. I believe that the girl who ends up at the bottom is the girl who really doesn't fit in with the rest of the group, for whatever reason.

So are girls at your school being mean to you? Do you not fit in? Don't personalize it. They are power-hungry and are fighting you for position. People do evil things for power. It is sin. It is human nature.
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One of the best books I've ever read for helping to deal with the tween drama of 6th grade and the start of middle school. SO MANY people had recommended this book to me, I finally bought it. I actually highlighted things in it for my husband to read as well. It actually helps to understand things that I don't recall from being a tween/teen back in the 80s. One of the best analogies she gives is about your daughter being on a sinking ship and her two options are to go into the shark infested water- alone, or to get into a lifeboat with these girls that taunt or tease her. Can she just "ignore them?" Not a chance! But her fear of being in the water alone is her only other option, so she picks... the boat. That is what our daughters are faced with every day when they go to school. Additionally it gives you SOLUTIONS- some things to say and to NOT say which was really helpful. This book is NOT going to end the drama that your daughter is dealing with, but I think it is still a very useful tool. It even touches on social media (although she may have to update it since it changes so quickly) and how to deal with all of that. I would HIGHLY SUGGEST ANYONE WITH A 10-14 YR OLD GIRL READ THIS BOOK ASAP! Glad that I did....
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