Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Clique: A Novel

"The sound of her own voice echoed in her head and it sounded creepy, like it didn't belong to her. Maybe because she'd said Claire's name with a trace of concern, maybe because it was the first time she'd called someone's name and gotten no response, or maybe because she felt like a Christmas tree, all alone in the dark with no one to appreciate her."

Title: The Clique: A Novel

Author: Lisi Harrison

ISBN: 0-316-70129-7

Publisher: 17th Street Productions

Copyright: 2004

Plot Summary: The Clique is, as the name portrays, the story of the four most popular girls of OCD (Octavian County Day School): Massie, Dyland, Alicia, and Kristen. They are the bearers of fashion knowledge, everyone wishes to be their friend, and they set the trends. Enter Claire, a girl who would rather wear overalls from Gap than name brands and just wants to make new friends. Claire and her family is staying in Massie's family's guest house and their parents attempt to force the two girls together as friends. Claire is swiftly introduced to the glitzy scene of Westchester County, New York, as the family driver takes Claire, Massie, and Massie's friends to a school where all the girls are head to toe in designer fashion. Claire attempts to fit in with the Clique despite numerous insults and put-downs, even turning down the friendship of a like-minded individual Layne. Soon, Claire cuts off her unfashionable friendship bracelets and dives into the dangerous, rumor-filled world of the Clique.

Critical Evaluation: While the writing style throughout the Clique is rather simple and almost like a screenplay, the inclusion of phone messages and instant messaging conversations from the computer displays an intrinsic part of modern life and something that readers can instantly relate to. The simplicity of the text messages contrasts with the prose of the rest of the novel and shows how thought and ideas can be abbreviated succinctly. The characters within the Clique are also familiar: popular, flawless girls who the rest of the school look up to and follow mindlessly. Harrison, however, adds dimensions to the characters, such as Dylan's weight issues and Kristen's hidden secret regarding her family. Claire's character evolution throughout the novel is the largest, as she starts off as a small-town girl who sheds almost all of her values to join the trendy Clique. She almost as rapidly regains her values and makes friends with Massie in an almost unbelievable fashion. While the end of the novel may seem incredulous to some readers, it is quite true to teen interactions, where relationships that seem broken suddenly mend without a further thought.

Reader's Annotation: Can Claire, an ordinary girl who likes friendship bracelets and gummi worms, fit in with Massie, Dylan, Alicia, and Kristen, the most popular girls in school? And will she recognize herself if she does?

Information About the Author: Lisi Harrison is a Canadian-raised author. She started her career working for MTV in New York and made her way to Head Writer.
Harrison's coworkers in MTV motivated her to write the Clique, which has become a popular and well-read series. Read more about Harrison at her website.

Genre: Realistic Fiction; Preteen Life; Popularity; Bullying

Curriculum Ties: National Bullying Prevention Month (October)

Booktalking Ideas:
  • Why is Massie a sympathetic character despite the way she, and the rest of the Clique, treat Claire? What do readers discover about her that could lead to the way she interacts with other girls?
  • How is Claire a strong protagonist and how could she have been improved? Discuss how she changes throughout the book.
  • How does the rest of the Clique (Kristen, Dylan and Alicia) act when Massie is around? How about when she is not there and they are alone with Claire? How does this behavior differ and what does it say about their characters?
Reading Level: Preteen to Teen

Challenge Issues:
  • While this book contains horrific cases of bullying between preteen girls, Harrison delves into the characters and displays their personal motivations, making them sympathetic. Also, by finding the motivation behind bullying can cause preteens and teens to discover why they may encounter bullying and how to deal with it.
  • The depictions of bullying are sadly realistic, especially regarding the bullying-by-text. Making preteens and teens aware could allow them to help their friends who are being bullied or themselves.
Why This Book?: YALSA "Quick Pick For Reluctant Young Adult Readers"

Reference Page:
Harrison, L. (2004). The Clique: A novel. New York: 17th Street Productions.

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