May 24, 2004
Middle schoolers who have participated in the "popularity game" may be drawn to this series opener by a first-time author, which takes cliquish, snobbish behavior to Hollywood extremes. Massie Block, whom readers will love to hate, is rich, conniving and the uncontested leader of the "A-list" group of seventh graders at an exclusive private girls' school in New York's affluent Westchester County. When Mr. Block's unemployed college friend moves his family into the Blocks' guest house, Mrs. Block pushes Massie to befriend their daughter, Claire, who is the same age but dresses "like one of the cast members from Barney and Friends
"; Massie predictably rebels. She wastes no opportunity to let Claire know there is no room for her in the in-crowd; Claire, however, decides to fight back. What follows is a rigorous battle of wills between the girls involving backbiting, scheming and carrying out nasty pranks. With an arsenal stocked with designer clothing and cosmetics, fancy cell phones and "mani/pedi" appointments, Massie and her friends publicly humiliate Claire time after time, and Claire, slowly but surely, figures out a way to turn Massie's friends against her. Readers who are initially amused may find that the successive acts of one-upmanship result in a one-note read—while Massie and Claire experience a moment or two of camaraderie, they stay pretty superficial, unchanged by their victories and defeats. Ages 12-up.