cover image In or Out

In or Out

Claudia Gabel, . . Scholastic/Point, $8.99 (238pp) ISBN 978-0-439-91853-4

Gabel’s debut novel centers on two longtime best friends with very different perspectives about entering ninth grade. Shy, timid Nola, who “usually went unnoticed in a crowd,” is terrified of starting high school. Self-confident, boy-crazy Marnie, who has always lived in the shadow of her popular older sister, is excited to “totally reinvent herself.” She assures Nola that they will soon become “two of the most popular girls in our class.... And of course, no matter what happens, we’ll always have each other.” The story follows a predictable path, as Marnie worms her way into the popular posse, led by mean girl Lizette, who possesses the power to decide “what’s in and what’s out, not to mention who’s in and who’s out .” Nola, of course, is “out,” and is crushed when her “in” pal increasingly ignores her. She finds solace in the attention that a kind, cute boy pays her, yet again feels let down when she discovers that he has a long-distance girlfriend. Meanwhile, Marnie reels in a “preppie demigod and all-around amazing” sophomore, who of course (Nola discovers) is a bit of a cad. The tale brims with references to fashion and pop culture. Gabel ably captures each girl’s point of view and she leaves several strands of plot hanging—unresolved issues that will be taken up in the second installment, due this fall. Ages 12-up. (June)