February 20, 2010 Review: Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials
In 2002, Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman was published. The book was a discussion on the inner world of girls, from cliques to drama, in a way few parenting books bothered to eclipse. The book became the basis for the hit movie Mean Girls, staring Lindsay Lohan.
Now Wiseman turns her sights on writing fiction, with her young adult debut, Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials. Charlotte, or as she’s more known, Charlie, has suffered at the hands of mean girls during middle school, and is eager to start anew at Harmony Falls High. But people from the past arrive in her new life – Nidhi, also a victim of mean girls, and Will, her childhood best friend. And when Will becomes a varsity athlete and tries too hard to fit in with “the guys,” an innocent man is hurt during their hazing prank. Charlie realizes she must make a choice between her friendship and doing the right thing.
It’s Rosalind’s experience with the microcosm of high school from Queen Bees that richens Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials. While certainly not a flawless depiction of high school, her take on the mean girls was refreshing. I loved Charlie, who wasn’t like most of the teenage girls in fiction – here was a girl who wasn’t constantly obsessed with her appearance. Same for Sydney and Nidhi – friends that Charlie had left her old high school to find. The dialogue feels fresh and real, not the product of a weekend’s worth of MTV viewing. The plot of the damage mean boys can wreak, a converse of what Queen Bees introduced, was refreshing. However the plot with Will and the near-fatal prank came too far toward the end of the novel for me. As a central plot device, one on which a character-altering decision hinged, it felt awkward to confront so near the conclusion.
There are great things to take from this novel, and I’m always a fan of a book that makes me think: How Charlie must confront her past in the form of Nidhi and Charlie. How far one will go to fit in. Sexual harassment. The list goes on. But they’re all presented woven into the narrative, never does a character speak for the author and real-life teen issues she writes about every day on her website. Might be a great book for parents of teen girls to read with their children to spark some conversations.
Copy for review provided by the publisher.
Title: Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials
Author: Rosalind Wiseman
Date: January 2010
Publisher: GP Putnam
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