Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Book Review: Uncool, a Girl’s Guide to Misfitting In by Erin Elisabeth Conley

The Unrules:
  • Be kind to your fellow misfits.
  • Believe that black is a color suitable for any occasion, worthy of even being added to the rainbow.
  • Think.  Be.  Think and be different.
  • Throw caution to the wind.  Take chances with fashion, hobbies, hopes, and dreams.
  • Be OK with wearing things that your mother, grandmother, or nosy old neighbor thinks are ugly.
  • Don’t be afraid to look weird.
  • Write a blog.  Make a documentary film.  Publish a zine.  Learn the accordion.  Build a radio-controlled blimp.
  • Express your individuality in a healthy, creative way.
  • Let your inner geek speak- whether it’s through music, art, science, origami, circus school, or whatever.
  • Do something slightly risky (but never dangerous) every once in a while.  Take up the sport of spelunking (cave exploring), or invite your gym teacher to join you for lunch.
  • Have patience with people who are different from you.  (You know, the ones who are so “normal” they’re practically clones.)
  • Find something to believe in, a worthy cause of sorts.  Volunteer and invest some genuine spirit into it.
  • Feel free to pop over to the Dark Side, but don’t move there.
  • Orbit Planet Normal in your mother ship, but don’t inhabit it.
  • Don’t change just because someone else thinks you should.
  • Know that even though you may misfit, there is always someplace you are welcome in the world.

Uncool, a 2009 YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, is a fun and active read for teen girls who are always faced with the pressure of fitting in and bending to the whims of everyone’s opinions, whether it’s the media or family and friends.  When you know that you are not stepping to the same tune as everyone else, life is always difficult, and the humor that runs rampant throughout the book helps give girls already anxious about issues like appearance, clothing, cliques, and being themselves a lift and an easy way to navigate through some of the tougher waters.

Containing recommended book lists and playlists, Mad Libs for thinking through issues, and activities for handling situations in non-confrontational ways, Uncool engages readers into making active insights into the world around them.  It encourages the inner weirdness in all of us in a positive way, without shining rainbows and glitter over the negatives of middle school and teen life.  A lack of an appendix for additional resources (websites or readings), and its nonstandard size are the only negatives for adding it to a library collection- at 4 1/2 inches by 5 1/2 inches it’s perfect for a teen to carry around in a purse or backpack unnoticed, but it’s going to be hard to keep track of on traditional library shelving.
I can definitely see using this in library programming, paired with fiction books such as the ones listed on our Top Ten Books Dealing with Body Image, or with programs on self esteem, or as part of “spa days” for teens.  Get some of the Mad Libs or other writing activities blown up, create a playlist on your iPod with some of the recommended songs, and go to town for your program opener.  Lead with a discussion of where things stand in books and media before creating body salts or killer robots for crafts.
Some totally “Uncool” role models to share with teens:
Daria, from the awesome animated series from Mtv
Lisa Simpson, from the Simpsons animated series
Georgia Nicolson, from author Louise Rennison
Kat, from the movie 10 Things I Hate About You
Bridget Jones, from the books and the movies
And let us not forget one of the coolest Uncool people out there, Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Share your favorite “Uncool” female role models for us in the comments.