Book review: "The Clique" ah-nnoys me
Published: Thursday, January 14, 2010 - 12:31am
By Lisi Harrison
First novel in "The Clique" series
- Publication date: May 5, 2004
- Genre: Teen Fiction, Chick Lit
- Number of books in series: 12
and counting (for complete titles,
see list at the end of this review)
I LIKE TO think I read a pretty broad range of books — action, mystery, drama, comedy, whatever. One genre, however, never makes it on my reading list: chick lit.
Now, when I say chick lit, I mean the far-end-of-the-spectrum, pre-teen-oriented, ridiculously superficial manifestation of the term, not to be confused with genuinely well-written romance novels and such.
Anyway, one fateful plane ride some time ago, I found myself finishing the book I had brought with me and without anything else to read. This is how “The Clique” — the first volume in what is now a 12-novel series — came into my life. It was the only book I could get my hands on for the rest of the flight. A last resort. (Just for clarification, I believe these were the days before I had an iPod.)
So, I somewhat reluctantly cracked open this book, though, in retrospect, I’m not even sure how I made I past the cover. What I found was, as the main character Massie might put it, ah-palling.
“The Clique” series revolves around a posse of superficial rich girls (and one equally superficial but less privileged girl who pretends to be rich) who call themselves the Pretty Committee.
There’s Dylan, the supposedly funny one; Alicia, the supposedly pretty one; Kristen, the supposedly sporty one; and Massie, their not-supposedly but rather very truly malicious leader — or at least this is all I pick up from the shallow descriptions of their characters.
They’re going along, living their perfecter than perfect lives, which coincidentally revolve around clothes, boys, and making other people miserable, when along comes Claire, a supposedly nice and spunky girl from Florida who will be living with her family in Massie’s guesthouse.
Naturally, Claire is just dying to be part of the Pretty Committee, but they’re equally determined to keep her out of it by whatever means necessary. The entire book focuses on their wicked schemes to prevent Claire from ever moving past her LBR (Loser Beyond Repair; my soul died a little just typing that) status and becoming popular.
That’s it. I can’t bear to give you anymore plot information, just as I doubt you can bear to read anymore. You have the basic premise; now let’s move on.
There are several reasons I hate this book, and, surprisingly, none of them has anything to do with the fact that this storyline is so incredibly played out. In fact, this kind of story can and has been done well.
Take “Mean Girls,” for example. I actually liked that movie, but there are three crucial ways it differs from “The Clique” books: 1) it’s entertaining, 2) there’s actually a moral ending, 3) it’s quite obviously making fun of superficiality, not endorsing it.
But, let’s not get off topic. Reason No. 1 I can’t stand these books: They are so frustrating! The girls continually use obnoxious acronyms (like the aforementioned LBR) and phonetically spelled words, like “hawt,” “ah-dorable,” or “Ehmagawd,” which are not at all cute, like they seem to think, but rather simply “ah-nnoying.”
On top of that, the plot isn't captivating in the slightest. The general idea is a lot like reality TV, in my opinion, except that all the drama isn’t even remotely interesting. It’s repetitive, irritating, and unrealistic.
Reason No. 2 I can’t stand these books: There’s absolutely no lesson. Of course, not all books have to have an inherent lesson to them, but when the storyline is so outrageously wrong, you really do expect there to be some kind of moral at the end of it, just to save the cause.
By the end of the first book in the series, the situation’s all set up for Massie to learn not to be so mean and for Claire to learn fitting in isn’t the most important thing. If this were to happen, the book would still be clichéd, but my hatred for it would at the very least have been downgraded to a passionate dislike. But no. There is absolutely no lesson learned by any of the characters that I can tell.
Granted, I didn’t read the whole series; 11 more volumes have come out since the "The Clique" was published in May 2004 (two more are scheduled to be released this year), and I didn’t think my sanity could withstand that. So, there is a possibility that at the very end of the very last book, they all learn their lessons, but, failing that, Massie’s still mean, the rest of the Pretty Committee still conforms to her, and Claire still makes it her life’s goal to be someone who she’s not. How nice.
And finally, reason No. 3 I can’t stand these books: They are sexist. I’m no hardcore feminist, but even I can tell that this series, which is ironically written by a woman largely for young girls, is completely degrading. Why? Because there isn’t a single girl in this book worth looking up to.
Take Dylan, Alicia, and Kristen for starters. They go along with all the mean things Massie wants them to do, just for the sake of being in the ever-so-prestigious Pretty Committee.
Next, there’s Claire. She’s supposed to be the nice one, and yet she devotes all her time and energy to her desperate attempts at gaining Massie’s approval. Even Layne, the quirky girl who first befriends her, ditches Claire for Massie at the first chance she gets.
Then, there’s Massie. Oh, Massie. The problem with her is that she’s actually smart, independent, and strong-willed, but she is the meanest, nastiest girl in the book (there’s a concise word for that, but I don’t think I’m at liberty to use it here). It sends a message that girls shouldn’t be clever or powerful because they don’t know how to handle it and they’ll just be cruel. See? Sexist!
Now, in the interest of not being completely negative, I will offer one piece of praise for this book, and that’s that it is, in fact, a book, in the absolute most basic sense of the word. The way I see it, it’s reading for people who don’t like to read, which isn’t great, but at least it’s some sort of reading. My only glimmer of hope is that people who read these at a young age will eventually be enticed to try reading other books and perhaps even other genres (GASP).
I admit I’ve been pretty critical of “The Clique,” so try out the series for yourself and decide if I’m overreacting. Here is a link to an excerpt from the next book in the series, “These Boots Are Made for Stalking” (just know that you have to scroll down a bit on the page to get to it).
Read it, if you dare. If somehow you make it past “trampires” or “Ehmacrush!” without puking up your lunch, I salute your persistence and self-discipline. If not, which is fully understandable (I certainly didn’t), then run as fast as you can and go get some real, hardcore literature. It’ll make you feel better. Trust me.
Titles in "The Clique" Series
- "The Clique" (May 5, 2004)
- "Best Friends for Never" (Oct. 4, 2004)
- "Revenge of the Wannabes" (March 2, 2005)
- "Invasion of the Boy Snatchers" (Oct. 5, 2005)
- "The Pretty Committee Strikes Back" (March 1, 2006)
- "Dial L for Loser" (Aug. 23, 2006)
- "It's Not Easy Being Mean" (March 7, 2007)
- "Sealed with a Diss" (July 2, 2007)
- "Bratfest at Tiffany's" (Feb. 5, 2008)
- "P.S. I Loathe You" (Feb. 10, 2009)
- "Boys R Us" (July 7, 2009)
- "The Clique: Charmed and Dangerous" (Oct. 27, 2009)
- "These Boots Are Made for Stalking" (Forthcoming: Feb. 9, 2010)
- "My Little Phony" (Forthcoming: July 13, 2010)