Monday, January 5, 2015

The Anti-Socialites Diary 1: The Awkward Beginnings by Alicia and Tameka McKenzie

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
170 pages

The first book of The Anti-Socialites' Diaries series
Diary 1: The Awkward Beginnings opens in the month of August with the pronouncement "Our tenth birthday was complete disaster!" thus setting the tone for the many social pitfalls that main characters, twin sisters Asia and Tasia McKinley, face during the upcoming school year. Tasia writes of their expectations for a grand birthday party only to be greeted with the question "Isn't it your birthday?" by their older sister Gina in the afternoon. When their mother comes home with party decorations and a birthday cake they think things will turn around. Unfortunately no one comes to their party except another set of twins who live in the same building. Their only guests leave shortly after their arrival causing Asia and Tasia to cry. The twins view this as a bad omen for fifth grade--their final year at Whitlock Elementary School.

When the school year starts Tasia is concerned about looking fabulous for picture day and decides to do her own hair. It turns out bad and she ends up going to school with her "third grade hair style." While waiting in line for her turn to take a picture Tasia is mocked by her arch nemesis Porscha. A frustrated Tasia plots to "fight back against Porscha and company for the rest of my time here at Whitlock, just watch." Tasia's first opportunity to stand up for herself occurs at the end of October during "The First Annual Fifth Grade Halloween Jam." She is nervous about the mandatory "BOOgie Down Dance-Off",  but she performs a dance routine she learned from her dad in front of her classmates wearing an Orphan Annie costume. By the time she finishes everyone at the dance is laughing at her and Porscha adds insult to injury by calling her out over a microphone. Tasia leaves the dance crying and believes she'll never have a chance to compete with Porscha.

Over the next several months more embarrassing things happen to Tasia including her lying about getting an iPhone 5 for Christmas, but getting caught with a "SlimFlip", and her getting disqualified from the Science Fair after brazenly bragging to Porscha and her friends that she would win first place. After Tasia doesn't get selected to join the school band and chokes up during a choir performance at church, she gets a big breakthrough when she joins her friend Rosalyn and her sister Asia to form the group "The Spotlight Girls" to perform at the Spring Talent Show at the after school center The Spot. On the day of their performance Tasia is shocked to learn that Porscha and her friends Kyle and Zac joined the show in a last minute attempt to upstage The Spotlight Girls. They have a fancy set and expensive props which makes Tasia think that her performance will be overlooked. However, Rosalyn is unfazed and leads The Spotlight Girls to a successful performance and a standing ovation. They even sign a lot of autographs after the show. Tasia does experience additional humiliations by the end of the school year, but she receives a special gift and an important affirmation from her teacher Mrs. Suarez on the last day of school. Tasia reflects on the kindness of her teacher and her friend Ray and decides that the people who supported her were the ones who mattered all along.

Asia's school year starts with her trepidation over participating in the State Spelling Bee. Although she is an excellent speller, she doesn't feel comfortable competing against hundreds of students across New York State, especially not fourteen year-olds. When Asia walks on stage to spell her first word she loses consciousness. Her reputation as a nerd in Ms. Strict's class has now been replaced with the title "The Girl Who Fainted." Asia tries to ignore the chatter by reading books all time until she develops a major crush on her new classmate Marc. She fantasizes that he is her Prince Charming and dreams they'll be together in the near future, but another girl in her class named Natalie, who is pretty and popular, has her sights on Marc too.

While Asia is fuming with jealously over Natalie's flirtatious behavior towards Marc, she ends up being "Santa Partners" with her former crush Roy. Asia still feels animosity for Roy over something he did to her in fourth grade. Roy asks Asia if she wants the last Harry Potter movie for Christmas and Asia starts to believe that Roy has changed. She writes him a poem and gives him the gift he asks for---a month of completed homework, before she discovers that the Harry Potter gift was a hoax; it turns out to be a bootleg Justin Beiber CD. "The Untouchables", an exclusive popular group of fifth graders, all laugh when Natalie reveals the scam and Asia is heartbroken once again. To make matters even worse Ms. Strict announces that Marc has transferred to another school. Asia deals with this disappointment by hanging out with her friends Jill and Victoria, both of whom she has personality conflicts with. Drama ensues after Asia finds a Secret Admirer Card on her desk and Victoria writes a list of all the boys who could've given it to her. Once the boys in Ms. Strict's class find out about the card, they all deny it in ways that make Asia feel unlikable. The truth comes out over a month later during "The 14th Annual Whitlock Elementary Competition." A boy named Chuck explains to everyone in Ms. Strict's class that he used Asia as a subject for his science experiment to determine how low popularity levels effect the spread of gossip. Asia stops talking to her classmates and only hangs out with Rosalyn over the next few weeks. By the end of the school year Asia has a new crush, Simon, who is a friendly member of "The Untouchables" and she reconciles with her friends Jill and Victoria during graduation.

Although Asia and Tasia McKinley deal with their fair share of ridicule and go through numerous embarrassing social events during their final year at Whitlock Elementary School, they both learn the value of true friendship and support. Additionally they learn that it is important to have good character rather than succumb to the pressures of what it takes to be popular in school. There are moments that are very uncomfortable and sad, but the twins' resilience and their intelligence shine through, making them unlikely heroines and role models for young girls.

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