What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that if they're on the fence about whether to let tweens read this book series, the best test is whether you think reality shows about out-of-touch rich girls are out of line or harmless fun (think My Super Sweet 16). This is the book equivalent. There's no real sex, drug-related, or violent content like in the Gossip Girl series. The main character is in middle school and focused on shopping, winning, and telling other girls that they're ugly so she can sell makeup at her summer job. When there's a lesson to be learned (winning isn't everything, beauty is on the inside), part of the humor is supposed to be that Massie will never change. This is a quick beach read and the first in the Clique summer series; each girl in Massie's "Pretty Committee" will get her own book -- one a month from April to August 2008.
What's the story?
Massie Block starts the summer before eighth grade at riding camp, only to be kicked out when she gets caught pulling a stunt to try to win a competition. When her parents tell her she has to pay them back for the money they lost on the camp, she takes a job as a makeup rep for a new cosmetics company with a "beauty's on the inside" philosophy. Ignoring her training DVDs, Massie finds she's a lot more successful when she tells girls they're ugly and need to fix themselves. Suddenly business is booming. It's all going well until the company's president drops in to see Massie's selling techniques first-hand.
Is it any good?
This series releases one book a month during the summer of 2008; the first one -- MASSIE -- hit the top of the bestseller list right away. Kids who love reality shows and news about celebs like Paris Hilton will dive right in. The author tries to add humor in the fact that girls like Massie will never change, but it's not clever enough or scathing enough to be truly funny. And wouldn't it be nicer if she really learned from her mistakes? Then you could actually root for Massie in the end instead of wishing she'd suffer some crueler fate.
The worst part of the book is the way it's written. If you stripped out all mentions of designer brands, the book would be half the length (and that's barely an exaggeration). What's left is a bunch of text-messaging slang, catty comments stepped up with pop culture references, and a description of a very improbable summer job for an eighth grader. Oh, and she earns enough to pay back her parents for a summer of riding camp in just one week. Right. This book is $6.99 -- real girls should save their hard-earned babysitting money for a better beachy read.
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about whether they think characters like Massie are fun to read about or not. What other shows have you seen or books have you read that showcase lifestyles like Massie's? Would you rather be friends with someone like Massie or one of the girls she makes over? Would you like all her clothes and credit cards? Moms may also want to talk about all the makeup the middle school girls buy. What are your family's rules about makeup, credit cards, and shopping?