I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I went into it expecting a typical teen drama, but the author took what could have been cliché and gave it a fresh and amusing twist.
We follow our protagonist, Janice Wills, as she navigates the tricky waters of high school social life in her small town. Rather nerdy and introverted, she has chosen to avoid the pitfalls of cliques by observing her classmates with the detachment of an anthropologist. Her comments are somewhat sarcastic and amusing, and are not without the tint of disdain despite Janice’s attempts to be objective. She describes her interactions with the “mean girls” as encounters with “the enemy tribe” and the text is peppered with deviations from the plot as anthropological factoids about the residents of Melva.
Janice’s life is going along swimmingly, between her fervor for anthropology and two close, supportive friends, but then life throws a couple curveballs. Her mother is wild for her to take part in the “Miss Livermush Pageant”, the local beauty pageant that everyone who is anyone competes in. And the “Hot Theater Guy” begins paying attention to her. Janice just might have to interact with life rather than simply observe.
The author does an excellent job of affirming, subverting, and playfully mocking high school stereotypes. Janice even comments that the “mean girls” of the school seem to have taken their behavior and fashion sense from a cliché high school movie. Yet Janice, her friends, and many others are shown to be far more than what one sees on the surface, and it is this that makes Janice herself such a likable, if eccentric, protagonist.
This was an enjoyable and quick read with a good if somewhat obvious point about truly living life. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a different sort of “high school” book.