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Girls Against Girls {Book Review, Discussion & Giveaway}

My heart speeds up.  I see a single bead of sweat start to fall down my cheek.  Soon that bead of sweat will be a tear, but not quite yet.  She is coming.  I stand at the bus stop waiting to go to school and she is coming.  I am in the 5th grade, alternately known as hell – thanks entirely to her.  Today we are in for a special treat.  Her mother is a nurse and she has stolen a needle from her. As she plunges it into the skin of my arm over and over and over again, I know I can’t do this anymore.  So the next morning I force my little brother to walk to school with me, even though I have been told that I can not.  It is not safe where we live. We walk under the freeway overpass where in the future weeks a drunken man will grab me by the ankle.  We walk and we walk and we walk, morning after morning, because whatever dangers are out there, even the rapist they keep talking about on the radio, they don’t compare to the dangers that wait for me every morning at the bus stop.   Nothing is more dangerous than her festering hatred, and I don’t even know how I earned it.  Thank God that because of my parent’s divorce, I get to go to a different school next year.  I hope I can make it that long.

2ddcc girlsagainstgirls Girls Against Girls {Book Review, Discussion & Giveaway}

5th grade sucked for me. Truly and to its core.  There would be some other bad years, but nothing that compared to that one.  I remember when I was pregnant with my first child and The Mr. and I went to find out the sex of our baby, I wanted desperately for it to be a boy because I knew first hand how hard this world is for girls, and sadly it is often other girls making it that way. We have two little girls.  Last night the tween cried because the girl assigned to sit by her on the bus every day refuses to do so because she thinks the tween is “weird”.  Ahhhh, the glory of Girls Against Girls.  Sometimes I wonder, is there anything worse than being a teenage girl?

Girls Against Girls by Bonnie Burton is a nonfiction title from Zest Books that really challenges girls to think about why they do the things they do to one another and ways to end the cycle of girl against girl violence, which is primarily emotional and psychological but can get physical.  We all know what they say about “cat fights”.

“Hey, how long till the music drowns you out?
Don’t put words up in my mouth,
I didn’t steal your boyfriend”
Lyrics by Ashlee Simpson, Boyfriend
So why are girls so mean to one another?  Conventional wisdom has always said we are in competition.  I do feel like the world likes to put us in competition with one another.  Are we fighting for scarce resources, in this case men?  Jobs? Self respect?  Are we just born this way?  The truth is there is some truth to all of it.  We are taught to be competitive, we pass it down from generation to generation.  When you snipe at the neighbor or judge the woman on television, the children around you hear that and it becomes a model to them.  You can tell your children not to bully and judge but when they see you doing it – well, you know what they say: Actions speak louder than words.
“She’s my best friend. God I hate her.” – from the movie Heathers
Girls Against Girls is divided into 6 sections . . .
Section1: Why we hurt each other
Section 2: Methods of our meannness (Gossiping, the silent treatment, boyfriend stealing)
Section 3: Bearing the brunt of it (ways to deal)
Section 4: Calling in reinforcements (asking for help)
Section 5: Stopping the cycle (awesome section on dealing with emotions and taking responisibility for your actions)
Section 6: Teaming up instead of tearing each other down
Cyberbullying is discussed as well, a very relevant topic.  And there is a definite emphasis on dealing with the issues in positive ways and trying to stop the cycle.  The truth is, mean girls are not going to pick up this book (though they definitely should). No, it is the girls being bullied and tormented by their peers that will read this book, and it is a great resource for them.  It will help them understand that they are not really the issue.  But I would love to see every adult that works with or loves a teen read this books too.  Pair it with Queen Bees and Wannabees and look closely at what girl culture is like.  Then, put together some Girl Power programming and help girls have positive social interactions.
Some things you can do:
Have a girl power book discussion group.  Include titles like Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver and 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher.
Have a “Mean Girls Movie Festival” where you show movies like Mean Girls and Heathers.
Share resources with your teens like Girls Incorporated (www.girlsinc.org), The Ophelia Project (www.opheliaproject.org), Girls for a Change (www.girlsforachange.org) and some of the youth empowerment organizations listed here.
Provide positive opportunities for social interaction with craft events and other programming opportunities.  I have two rules at my teen programs: The BIC Rule (keep your butt in a chair, one butt to chair) and the Safe Haven Rule (all my teens know that my programs are safe places and no smack talk will be tolerated at all).  I don’t care if that is your sister who got you grounded by telling your mom about your boyfriend last night, you will not talk badly to her or about her at my programs.  You will be asked to leave after one warning.  This is non-negotiable.
“Being yourself is the best revenge.” Lynn Peril, author of Think Pink
To teenage girls everywhere: Be yourself and be kind to others
This is a good and, unfortunately, necessary addition to all teen collections.  There are no supplemental reading lists included, which is probably a good thing because they would always need to be updated.  But you can run with this theme and put together current reading and movie lists. There are also no shortage of songs you can put together for a Girl Power/Mean Girls playlist.  In fact, I would love for you to help me BUILD A RESOURCE GUIDE IN THE COMMENTS.  Leave your recommendations of teen book titles, movies and songs in the comments.

Final thoughts: As my tween saw me reading this book she asked me, “We’re all the same, why would we be mean to each other?” Why indeed? (Man I love that girl!)

Girls Against Girls: Why we are mean to each other and how we can change by Bonnie Burton is highly recommended for all school and public libraries, and to everyone who loves and works with teen girls.  It is well organized, thoughtfull, relevant and has some cool graphic elements and inspiring quotes.  You know I love me some inspiring quotes.  Published by Zest Books. ISBN: 978-0-9790173-6-0.

Bonnie Burton is part of the Vaginal Fantasy Book Club which I discussed earlier.  Fun stuff.

Other relevant posts:
Youth Empowerment Resources

Girl Power/Mean Girls Booklist
13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Pretty Amy by Lisa Burstein
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
PBS has an empowering booklist for Middle School Girls
Macmillan’s list of Girl Power books

Leave a comment and be entered for your chance to win Girl in a Fix, Girl in a Funk, Girls Against Girls and Regine’s Book from Zest Books.  Open to US Residents.  Please don’t forget to leave an e-mail or @ for Twitter so I can contact you. Contest runs through Friday, November 23rd.

Comments

  1. “Girl drama” or friends attacking each other has been heartbreaking to see as a teacher. I would love to have these resources for my students. @Perednia

  2. Ron Fowler says:

    Thanks SO MUCH for these resources! I'm a male youth services librarian(26 years), taught middle school for 10 years before that and had 2 daughters experience this kind of stuff. I've watched it happen to girls as young as 5th/6th grade. While I feel that I've dealt with it pretty well in all of these situations over the years, I certainly do not understand it. And, I do worry about the girls who don't reach out. I have several of the books on these lists and those that I don't have been added to the “to order” list. (Assuming that I don't win the giveaway :-) , of course!).
    rfowler@petoskeylibrary.org

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