Monday, January 12, 2015

The Anti-Socialites Diary 2: Middle School Blues by Alicia and Tameka McKenzie

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
130 pages

The second book in The Anti-Socialites' Diaries Diary 2: Middle School Blues opens with Tasia McKinley exclaiming that the new town her family has moved to named Grey Meadows is beautiful and that she and Asia along with their younger sister Mary are having a lot of fun riding their bicycles all summer. It doesn't take long before an instance of bullying occurs with three boys in the neighborhood calling Tasia, Asia, and Mary "Reject Girls." Nevertheless, Tasia hopes that she will fit in during sixth grade at Spartan Middle School.

When school starts Tasia immediately becomes the top student in all of her classes. She is accepted by Dina and Tamina, the coolest girls in sixth grade, who ask her to be a part of their dance group. Unfortunately Tasia is not a very good dancer and is summarily dismissed. She falls for her math classmate Victor Preggioni, but most of the girls in sixth grade like him. Tasia is encouraged by Victor's friendly conversations with her and decides she will compete to win his affection. After Tasia learns that her new friend Robin Delgado likes Victor too she gets a makeover. The makeover is unanimously derided by her peers and even Robin avoids her during this time period. Tasia overhears Victor saying he wouldn't go out with her because of her hair and teeth and realizes he was never worth any of the effort she put in to get his attention. Tasia has a shining moment in her science class when she wins a debate against her science teacher Mr. Alfie about women's contributions to science. Although her classmates are impressed with her reasoning Mr. Alfie punishes her for disrupting the lesson. Soon after this incident Tasia goes on the sixth grade camping trip called Camp Education.

There she encounters "a contentious crustacean" and finishes in last place for all the group camping challenges, but admits she enjoyed her time learning outside. The biggest disappointment of Tasia's school year occurs when she auditions for the lead role of  Freckles in the Spring play Middle School Musical and loses out to Robin. During a school pool trip Victor rescues Tasia from nearly drowning and feels grateful though the cool kids make fun of her kiddie bathing suit. At the end of the school year Tasia wins numerous academic awards from her teachers yet she is snubbed from all the yearbook superlatives. She hilariously claims that she is going to win every yearbook title next school year and plots her "social upgrades." She didn't realize then that she would move again in the summer.

Asia's school year begins with an unexpected physical altercation with a student in her gym class named Mya who was bullying her. The fight is instigated by mean boy Ron Purple who incessantly picks on Asia for no reason. Asia creates the superhero Bookgirl and draws the character in comic books as a protector of nerds and avenger against bullies. She also starts to read fantasy series voraciously, including The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Percy Jackson & The Olympians escape from the reality of Ron's jokes at her expense. In the friendship department Asia has to choose between Coral Nest and Faqua Grabini. Coral dislikes Faqua because she thinks she's too geeky and uncool and tries to make Asia avoid her. Asia succumbs to this scrutiny and limits her interactions with Faqua in between class time at their lockers. Asia feels guilty until she realizes that Coral is not really a true friend when Coral doesn't choose Asia to be on her team for a social studies project. After this Asia and Faqua develop a close friendship where they console each other over their lack of popularity and alienation from their classmates. During their first few weeks together as real friends they work together on an invention project in Woodshop class and have their efforts thwarted by the notorious copycat Mara Wilkes. Asia feels very lonely on Valentine's Day and doesn't attend the school dance because she doesn't have a date while Faqua does have a date. To top it off there are two boys in her Reading class who asks her questions just to make fun of her answers.

By the time the Camp Education trip comes around Asia is relieved and excited until she learns that she will sleep in Cabin D. The rumor about a 200 year old ghost haunting Cabin D looms over the entire experience and culminates on the final evening of the trip when Asia hears a creak after midnight. She catches three students pulling a prank and alerts a teacher. She is rewarded at the closing banquet of the trip. Back at school Asia gets in trouble with a bus driver and the principal for refusing to throw away her gum. While in a bathroom stall during church Asia overhears a conversation between Coral and her enemy Renee where Coral reveals that she wasn't really friends with Asia. In the last month of school the sixth graders have Field Day and play a game of Dare, Double Dare, or Death Dare. China and Sunny invite Asia to play and she agrees to do a Death Dare after Mya taunts her. Her Death Dare is to kiss Clover Mintson, "the dirtiest, most stinky kid in all of Grey Meadows, probably the whole world!" Asia tries to back out, but Mya and her cronies push Asia's face to Clover's cheek causing Asia to have nightmares for days after. When the school year ends Asia and Tasia along with their sisters Gina and Mary are completely shocked to learn that they will be moving back to New York immediately.

Asia and Tasia's transition to middle school is challenging, yet ultimately enlightening as they discover the true meaning of friendship and assert their values in a classroom setting. In tenuous times of a child's social development it is critical that they recognize how to handle situations like being verbally bullied on a regular basis and being ostracized for not wearing the latest fashions, but more importantly Asia and Tasia have to discern the characters of their peers and analyze their own behavior in difficult scenarios. The introspection in this book is evidence of the twins' maturation and what makes Diary 2: Middle School Blues an authentic sequel to Diary 1: The Awkward Beginnings.

1 comment: