Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Book Report – Odd Girl Out by Rachel Simmons

I recently went and seen the movie “Bridge to Terabithia” and it was a great movie. A sub-plot of it was the interaction the young main characters had with a group of older “8th grader” girls. The 8th grade girls bullied most everyone, including the main characters, but close to the end of the movie one of the main characters emotionally helped the main bully through an issue and a friendship started. This little sub-plot gave a quick look at what this book “Odd Girl Out” explains. I can’t say that I liked this book as a whole but I did like the group Rachel researched (mostly 5th-9th grade girls). Here are three thoughts that really stand out to me in this book:

1) Rachel Simmons really has a bone to chew with “our culture.” She starts the book off with her personal stories of hardship and connects “our culture” to being one of the main reason she suffered. Later she shares, “We become accomplices in the culture’s repression of assertive women and girls…” again blaming the culture for most of the woes of girl bullies. This bone seems to have enlarged the book a lot. She had so many stories and each stories was, at least, a couple pages long. This was the biggest reason why it was a hard book for me to read.

2) Her desire for us to have “a positive vocabulary for girls to tell each other their truths..” is something I totally agree with. The need for a common language for girls (and us) to discuss the different situations they are in is at an all time high. Unfortunately, I didn’t really pick-up from the book an outline that Rachel would suggest we use for that language. Maybe it is there but to me it must have been hidden inside all the stories and explanations she had throughout the book.

3) Rachel talks about the need for girls to talk with each through their hurts. I couldn’t agree more, “It is time to own our own feelings – to own up… It is time, in all seriousness, to get in touch with our inner bully.” But early adolescents do not have the physical or mental abilities to do this on their own. The feeling to be accepted is so high that this, “leads many of them to hold on to destructive friendships, even at the expense of their emotional safety.” Early adolescents will do anything to have relationship (and this goes for boys as well). This is where adults must come in and help them through this. Rachel does suggests some ideas on how to do this at the end of this book. Here are a couple statements for parents to avoid and better statements for them to use that I thought are useful:

- Wrong – “It’s a phase” or “It happens to everyone, honey”
- Better – “Oh honey. That is terrible. I’m sorry”
- Wrong – “What could you be doing to cause this?”
- Better – “Do you want to brainstorm together about how we got here?”
- Wrong – “I’m calling that school RIGHT NOW!”
- Better – “Do you want me to talk with your teacher?”

Over all I think the research group was a great group to find out about girl bullies. But Rachel really had some “bones to chew” about our culture and that really influenced how this book was written.

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