The battlefield strategies of teenage girls has been a hot topic in fiction and nonfiction over the past few years, with books like Queen Bees and Wannabes and Odd Girl Out, not to mention movies like “Mean Girls.” But that doesn’t make the topic any less interesting and in her novel The Clique, author Lisi Harrison breathes new, funny life into the topic.
In this young adult novel, middle-schooler Claire Lyons moves from Florida to Westchester County, N.Y., to stay with the family of her father’s old school friend. The family, of course, has everything, including an ultra-popular daughter Claire’s age, Massie. But Massie takes a dim view of Claire, her Gap clothes, and the fact that Claire’s family is staying in her family’s guesthouse. She and her school-ruling buddies conspire to make Claire’s life miserable and, for a while, they succeed – until Claire fights back.
Harrison has taken this well-worn topic and peppered it with gags that are both mean and hilarious (one of Massie’s friends “drops” a red paintbrush in Claire’s lap in art class so that everyone thinks Claire has her period), but never makes the girls less than human.
Sure, she captures the casual cruelty of the teen years, but Harrison doesn’t make the girls monsters. She knows that the teen years are kill-or-be-killed, and doing something like pelting the new girl with smoked salmon or ditching a so-called friend to hang with someone more popular are just part of the game. The book is fun, fast-moving and, in the end, actually kind of sweet.
Harrison may be treading familiar territory here, but she does it so well that it seems as stylish as one of Massie’s outfits.