NOT MUCH JUST CHILLIN': The Hidden Lives of Middle Schoolers

Linda Perlstein, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $24 (272p) ISBN 978-0-374-20882-0

In contrast to the recent spate of books that focus on bullying (e.g., Rosalind Wiseman's Queen Bees and Wannabees and Rachel Simmons's Odd Girl Out), Washington Post education reporter Perlstein examines all facets of being an ordinary "tween." She discusses such issues as consumerism (according to Perlstein, 12- to 15-year-olds spend on average $59 a week, not counting money their parents spend on them); romance, which doesn't necessarily imply the couple ever spends time alone together; and the phenomenon of instant messaging—all to give parents of young children an idea of what lies ahead. True, much can be learned from reading catalogues and magazines geared specifically to preteens, like Delia's catalogue, CosmoGIRL! and YM, but Perlstein delves deeper into how boys and girls view life by tracking five students at Wilde Lake Middle School in Columbia, Md., a "rough" suburban school in an affluent area. Her subjects include the likable eighth-grader Eric Ellis, who is very bright and very bored, and seventh-graders Jackie Taylor, who is learning to deal with crushes on boys, and Elizabeth Ginsburg, whose favorite answer to her parents' questions is "nothing." There are also sixth-graders Jimmy Schissel, who is unhappy with his changing body, and Lily Mason, who worries about wearing—and doing—the right thing. In addition to details about the children's confirmations, bat mitzvahs, friendships and homework, Perlstein interweaves information about how middle-school children learn best and what parents can do to help. Agent, Gail Ross. (Sept. 4)

Forecast:Although Perlstein doesn't break any ground the way the bullying books did, parents eager to know more about what it's going to be like when their kids get to middle school will find this helpful.

Reviewed on: 06/30/2003
Release date: 09/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-345-47576-3
Open Ebook - 272 pages - 978-1-4299-2194-7
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