Sunday, November 21, 2010

YA Book Review: The Secret Rites of Social Butterflies

I couldn't grasp, as I read the early stages of the novel, that there are really teenagers out there this pampered and privileged: chartered helicopter rides to a second home in the Hamptons, designer clothes and shoes bought with mom and dad's credit card, no curfew, private school, et al.  It bothered me.

Yet, as I read on, I came to the conclusion that it didn't matter if these were wealthy, private school kids, middle class students, or those trying to make something out of themselves within settings where all economic and societal odds are against them.  The major themes of Lizabeth Zindel's The Secret Rites of Social Butterflies exist in some form in every school in America: the potential damage caused by gossip, the powerful and at times hurtful consequences of cliques, and the rocky metamorphosis from childhood to adulthood.

The strongest element of the story is the independent nature of the protagonist Maggie.  Her independence carries her into trouble, but it also sets things right at least socially.  The mess is not entirely cleaned up at the end, but at the very least there are some positive messages for the YA crowd to glean from the conclusion of the book:

1. Maggie comes clean with her parents on her own
2. Maggie stands up to her foil, Victoria
3. Maggie makes the effort to make amends with a student who suffered greatly because of her actions

Even though kids will read this book coming from countless socioeconomic backgrounds, the one common ground which binds them all in this novel is the very human desire to be liked.  We want to be liked.  I haven't met a young person yet who wanted to fail, and I never met one yet who wanted to be disliked.

Actually, being liked, is so rooted into the core of so many decisions made by 11, 12, and 13 year olds, that I am confident many would read this book and absolutely connect with it right from the start.

I absolutely recommend this book for YA readers.  And I wouldn't be surprised to see someone take a shot at it and turn it into a film.  It absolutely fits the mold of what works (sells tickets) for the YA audience.

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