Is a novel by Lisi Harrison, as Glowing Fish states above. And, in fact, it was him who recommended it to me as an experiment in co-reviewing. In fact, to be fair, I've deliberately held off reading his review until now so I could finish the novel and pass comment on it. And in a nutshell, far from passing comment on it, it deserves that I pass water on it, but that's beside the point.
Ah soddit, let's just get on with things.
Why bullying is awesome.
A bit more detail, if you wouldn't mind?
New face in the pretentiously named middle school called Octavia Country Day (the second word of which is, judging by the sort of person who attends it, possessed of a superfluous O) who's normal. Claire, her name is. And she's staying with the alpha bitch of the school, one Massie Block. Now, where I come from, that's a joke name, but let's run with it for now. Anyhow. Massie is the head of a clique of four girls who collectively refer to themselves as "the Pretty Committee" who are basically a shower of evil-minded spoilt bullies. The fact that there's a new girl is obviously a capital offence in their weird, twisted world, especially as she doesn't spend $780.00 on a top at one go. (I think an aside is necessary here - yes, I would spend that much on a top so long as it did something genuinely unusual, like was stylish yet bulletproof and swordproof and had servos embedded in it so I could lift cars single-handed and suchlike.) Because all the Pretty Committee would do this.
Basically, the novel revolves around Claire's attempts to fit in (why oh why oh why would anyone want to be like these people) and Massie and pals' attempts to ruin her life. By backstabbery and general subterfuge, usually to try to cause embarrassment or similar. For instance, by putting a blob of red paint on Claire's seat during art class so when she sits down, as she's wearing white trousers, when she gets up she looks like she's unexpectedly had her period. Or pretending to befriend her only to then stab her in the back and similar. There's lots of conversations over instant messenger (despite the fact that the novel came out in 2004, when social networking was eclipsing Yahoo Messenger, MSN, or AIM in popularity) as well in which the girls plot their next move and jockey for position in Massie's court. It should be mentioned that they're all 13 years old. Yet at least some of them arrive at school in a limo. Fhat the wuck.
Okay, so far typical teenage cattiness (albeit with absolutely no comeuppance for any of them.) But it gets worse. Specifically, it then proceeds to venture deep into "am I a creephat for reading this?" territory, as I will now demonstrate.
Firstly, be reminded that they're all 13 years old.
Now add to this the constant descriptions of their (always designer) clothing. In particular the member of the Pretty Committee called Alicia, who's sort of Massie's number two (insert obvious joke about how they're all number two here.) Now season that with constant lingering descriptions over Alicia's looks and ability to attract boys. If you're feeling now like the author was of the cigar-smoking, silly wig-wearing, marathon-running persuasion, this is normal. Yes. There's an awful lot of sexualisation of teenagers going on here. It gets worse when you realise that, reading between the lines, Alicia, who has Curves In All The Right Places, probably has had implants. At thirteen. And that Dylan (another PC member) is probably anorexic. And this is held up as a Good Thing. At thirteen. I don't know about you, but I'm slightly nonplussed by all this.
The Pretty Committee at one point also attempt to start a make up business called "Glambition." But it's another boondoggle for kicking Claire for not being rich enough. And this is the other thing that bothers me about this novel. Its glorification of bullying and bitchiness over everything else, especially in a novel aimed at teenagers, which this is. The Pretty Committee go to any length to exclude, backstab, and mindfuck those who are insufficiently forelock-tugging to them... and they do so with absolutely no consequences whatsoever. Who is running this school? I know there's a stereotype about private schools letting off kids whose parents are willing to open the chequebook whenever their spoilt midget mongrel bastard is caught beating up some other kid, but I question how far it would go in reality. And besides, Massie's parents, like everyone else's parents, are barely a blip on the horizon, as are the teachers and suchlike. I know that when I was 13 years old, if I'd have painted a red splotch on the seat of some girl's trousers at school to make it look like she'd been caught short while the painters were in (or, as I was at an all-boys state grammar school, some tipp-ex on the front of their trousers to make it look like they'd had a crafty classroom wank) I'd probably have been sentenced to death by rugby or something equally horrific. But... no. This does not happen. This, the constant dropping of brand names throughout the book, and the sheer superficiality that the novel has you wallow in at all times send the message that to succeed in life you need to be rich, vain, and petty. When in the real world, results and capability and getting shit done matter, which are the inverse of the skills you need to succeed at a place like Octavia Country Day.
The novel was, alas, popular, and has spawned legions of sequelae. Not bad for a novel that was written solely as a marketing exercise by someone from MTV (no, really).
I would go on, but I actually feel dirty just thinking about it. In closing, a person on TV Tropes described it as having "the least likeable characters since Mein Kampf." I find it hard to argue with this assessment. I'm off for a bath now.