Sunday, October 1, 2017

Mean Girls

Chiggers by Hope Larson (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2008, 176pp.)

Chiggers is a tale that takes place at a summer camp. Abby, the focus of the story, is a naive, dorky kind of girl who secretly reads fantasy novels and likes to pretend that she’s an elf. Not that she would tell her friends that. That would be uncool.

Things change when a new girl, Shasta, arrives at the summer camp. The main thing that attracts Abby to Shasta is their shared love of fantasy books. In addition to this, Shasta is pretty darn neat! She’s one eighth Cherokee, has an Internet boyfriend, and was once struck by lightning! But strangely enough, Shasta is instantly reviled by Abby’s circle of friends. So who should Abby hang out with? Her old friends, or the new girl who she has more in common with?

I found this in the juvenile section at my library, and upon browsing it, was surprised to find swear words and conversations about periods. My first thought was, This needs to be in the Young Adult section, but on second thought, it’s really more of a read aimed at “tweens.” The reason for this is the subject matter. I never went to a summer camp like the one shown here, but apparently they’re breeding grounds for gossip and back-stabbing. Abby’s two friends, Beth and Zoe, are mean, petty posers who aren’t beneath putting down other people to make themselves look good. Even Shasta and Abby aren’t immune from such behavior. After having a quarrel with Abby, Shasta spitefully implies that she’s going to make a move on Teal, Abby’s crush.

Chiggers highlights the negative qualities of females (in particular, young teenage females), and reminds me of everything I hated about high school. While this behavior certainly rings true with girls this age (even among friends), it certainly doesn’t commend them to the reader. Recommended for girls ages 13-15.

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