Monday, January 26, 2015

The Anti-Socialites Diary 4: #NotCool by Alicia and Tameka McKenzie

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
132 pages

The Anti-Socialites Diary 4: #NotCool is the most dramatic diary in the series yet as Asia and Tasia fend off "The Bully Mafia" and cyber bullying in eighth grade at East Rivers Middle School. During their last weeks of summer vacation Asia, Tasia and their younger sister Mary come up with an elaborate scheme to raise money to buy a Wii U. They make homemade kites and sell 54 to earn $100. When their father finds the money in his toolbox he asks them where they got it from. Tasia confesses that they sold kites instead of going to the soccer field with Mary and their dad confiscates the money and shuts down their business because they were dishonest. The twins and Mary are extremely disappointed and scrap the idea of getting a Wii U altogether. The letdown causes Tasia to write "I can't believe I am going to say this but, I'll be happy when school starts again." Little does she know that it will be her roughest school year ever.

Asia's school year begins with her saying it is "BORING" and that "there's nothing going on." She explains that she is not being picked on or bullied so she doesn't know how to function. Her eighth grade teacher is Ms. Scarfinger who has "the best classroom library in the entire grade." She is still best friends with Celeste and sits next to another girl named Sharon, but she mostly reads a lot of books during class. The drama Asia expected early on occurs when a Vivienne-less "Hottie Clique" goes after Celeste and her boyfriend Chase. The new leader of "The Hottie Clique" Trina attempts to flirt with Chase, but he's not interested, so another Hottie Clique member named Margie goes after him too. The sabotage attempts end with a fake note on Celeste's desk claiming that Trina and Chase are secretly dating. Asia laughs it off and Celeste decides the whole thing is funny too. Asia has a much harder time finding the humor in the next incident involving Ricky Smalls and a trend on Twitter. She is informed by a student in Mr. Sage's class named Ronnie that her name is trending under the #NotCool hashtag for East Rivers' Twitter page. He shows her the tweets on his smartphone and Asia reads tweets such as #Asiasteeth, #Asiasbooks, #Asiashair, #Asiapants, etc. Asia is very hurt and cries alone in the bathroom. She decides to forgive Ricky and buys him a Christmas present, a book titled How to Lose Friends and Alienate People. Asia gets the best Christmas gifts: Twenty five plays by William Shakespeare and all of Toni Morrison's novels--a huge upgrade from her dusty book collection featuring two books about a creepy man named Mr. Sweeney and The Bad Spider Dog.

In January East Rivers school counselor Chairman invites Asia to be a motivational speaker on academics for 6th and 7th grade students. One of Asia's biggest fears is public speaking so she is mortified when Chairman tells her to deliver a speech. She mumbles her way through an incoherent speech and then leaves the room abruptly. The seventh graders laugh at her and Asia feels resentful towards Chairman. On Valentine's Day a rotund classmate of Asia's named Curtis Pitcher offers her a teddy bear and a bouquet of flowers and asks her to be his date for the eighth grade dance. Asia politely declines and leaves the classroom. She is relieved she said no when Celeste tells her that Curtis ripped the teddy bear apart after she left the room. Asia competes in the 15th annual school Spelling Bee and goes to the 16th round with Sharon. She wins the Spelling Bee by spelling "triskaidekaphobia" correctly. Sharon gets offended by Asia's celebratory statements and Celeste gets mad at her too. Asia later apologizes to Sharon for bragging. During the senior class picnic Asia is quite sure that Curtis threw a football at her on purpose that caused her to fall, but she lets it go because she knows he is bitter. It leads to a nice boy in her class named Dustin giving her a Band-Aid and eventually asking her to save a dance for him at the eighth grade dance. Asia wears a pretty yellow dress at the dance and tries to honor Dustin's wish, but she doesn't know how to dance at all. He leads the way and they have a great time. Asia graduates from East Rivers as the Valedictorian and wins free tickets to Six Flags for participating in a reading program challenge---she read 550 books during the school year which was way past the 150 book total for the challenge. Asia is elated that she survived middle school with all the bullying and clique drama and looks forward to doing great things in high school.

Tasia dislikes her homeroom social studies teacher Mr. Hanes because he gives them a lot of homework. She really doesn't like the fact that he allows bullies such as Sheldon, Raven, and Darla to pick on her. Sheldon continues to make fun of Tasia this school year, but now she has to deal with the added taunts from Raven and Darla who are the meanest girls she's ever had class with. The three of them form what Tasia calls "The Bully Mafia" because they strongly enforce the social order in their class on a regular basis. Tasia really misses her best friend Rose Pettals who moved to Europe last school year and she also misses Orlando Depp, a boy she was friendly with as a study partner in her seventh grade class. Orlando is in a lower eighth grade class so she rarely sees him. The only bright spot to her day is math class with Mr. Sage who is cool and gives away extra credit points. Tasia often wins the extra credit points and gives her extra ones away to nice classmates, making Raven and Darla hate her even more. Tasia doesn't care because "a few bonus points won't change the fact that [they] are bullies!" During a school assembly Tasia has a big showdown with Raven and Darla after Mr. Sage announces that the eighth graders will get a week off from math if 70% of them pass the State Tests. Tasia asks Mr. Sage if students who pass can get the week off even if 70% don't pass and he says students who pass will get rewards. Raven and Darla get angry and throw a bottle of water and a piece of gum at her. Most of the students in the auditorium laugh at Tasia as she leaves to clean herself off. Tasia is so full of rage that she grabs a can of paint from the Art room and throws it on Raven and Darla's table at lunch. Principal Toady reprimands Tasia, Raven, and Darla--Tasia gets a whole month of detention and Darla gets suspended for three days for continued belligerent behavior.

While Darla is gone Raven tries to intimidate Tasia with threats, but Tasia fearlessly defends herself and tells Raven to get a life. "The Bully Mafia" takes a huge hit when Darla is transferred to another school by her worried mother. Tasia comments that "Darla's departure has significantly weakened the control that the 'tough' kids have over the nerds!" After that incident Tasia joins an after school program called Teens on the Rise with Asia and Celeste. She is surprised when she sees that Orlando has joined too. They reconnect and work together on their homework and even sit next to each other while watching The Great Gatsby. Celeste tries to encourage Tasia to go out with Orlando, but Tasia worries that Orlando doesn't like her. By the time Teens on the Rise ends Tasia has a startling epiphany that Orlando is too immature for her due to his behavior on the last day of the program. He acted like a "kindergartener" by following her around and picking on her. After that he asked her out, but Tasia refused. At the senior class picnic "The Hottie Clique" flirts with Orlando after finding out that Tasia liked him, but Tasia ignores them because she is over him already. Tasia is bored by the company of Geneva and Janice, two quiet girls in her class who were talking about trees. She was very happy when they went back to school. Tasia is hysterical over her mother's hideous dress choices for her and Asia's eighth grade dance, but her mom eventually buys them beautiful dresses. Tasia has tons of fun dancing to "Gangnam Style" and "Harlem Shake" at the dance and she even takes a picture with Orlando "to commemorate [her] ill-fated crush." At the graduation ceremony Tasia starts crying while delivering her Salutatory address. She's embarrassed, but she's also happy she received numerous awards and is done with middle school for good. Tasia reflects on what's actually "#NotCool": "students thinking they can bully others and get away with it" and "hopes 'The Hottie Clique' and 'The Bully Mafia' learn that people deserve to be treated with respect no matter how unstylish or unpopular they are."

Despite the heightened social tensions during their final year at East Rivers, Asia and Tasia succeed academically and become Valedictorian and Salutatorian. They stand up for themselves and stay focused on what really matters: education. The great lesson to take away from The Anti-Socialites Diary 4: #NotCool is that bullying doesn't make you cooler or smarter, but it makes the people you're picking on look cool and smart.  

No comments:

Post a Comment