The Clique

October 6, 2008
Tween girls of all shapes, colors, and bank account sizes will be flocking to stores this fall when a movie based on the #1 bestselling young adult book series, The Clique, by Lisi Harrison, is released in DVD.
When I think about The Clique, it’s a thumbs down. Yet I’m hooked. It’s about a group of 12 and 13 year old snobby rich girls living in Westchester, New York that go to a private all-girls school and live in mansions. Claire, the only girl readers can relate to, moves in with Massie—the leader of the clique—and she and the rest of the clique look down on Claire. Claire eventually becomes part of the clique, though she’s never one of their own—she wants to be, but she’s not rich or snobby.
The disconnect for me is the fact that girls that I know in middle school do not dress and act three times their age. We do not carry around Louis Vuitton and Coach bags; we carry Jansport backpacks or shoulder bags. No girl I know gives her group of friends a name like “The Pretty Committee”. If I did that in my real life, I would not be popular: I would be a wanna-be. No one I know has $500 and up to spend at a regular trip to the mall. At my school, no one worships a single group of girls!
Young readers say that since The Clique, they definitely read more—a key selling point for parents. If I were a parent, I would rather have my daughter not read and spend time with her friends than get lost in The Clique world. Dr. Mary Pipher, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Reviving Ophelia, a book about the life adolescent girls says: “Many strong girls have found protected space in which they could grow…Protective space can be created by books…It’s a blessing.” I find protective space in many different things, including books, but The Clique hasn’t provided a safe place for me.
If this world exists, the readers are all outside of it! The Pretty Committee (TPC) thinks that everything revolves around them, and in the book, it sort of does: their parents and chauffeurs do anything to please them, girls at their school follow their clothing trends, and their thick aura commands strangers to notice them. At my own school, not one group is on top. Reading this makes me feel like I’m on the bottom, an LBR (TPC lingo for Loser Beyond Repair). Maybe there are people like this, but I don’t need to know them. Why should they set my standards? If these girls existed, I wouldn’t be attracted to be like them. But in the books, I am.
Then why do we read it? We could be contemplating Pride and Prejudice or reading Hoot or a classic or a Newberry Award Medal book or something worthwhile! The Clique has spent 100 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and has sold over four million copies. Why? Why do we like it? Why do I like it?
It’s addicting. We love the way the characters are devilishly clever with their comebacks, their confidence, the way they ignore what hurts them. We love reading about people that have everything at their fingertips—wouldn’t that be awesome? We love the group of friends—the actual clique. Oh, sure, they whisper and text behind each other’s backs and care more about themselves than others, but—wow, they sure have fun together. I want to go to Starbucks with them. I want to hang out at their huge houses and laugh with them. Couldn’t my friends and I all go to designer stores and get our hair done together—can’t everyone be jealous of us? We love peeking into the life we wish we had, the characters we wish we were. But when we imagine ourselves in that life, we get an icky feeling, like eating too many sweets. I look around the room I share with my sister. It doesn’t have a vanity, a mannequin, a new computer, or walk-in closet. No intercom system to communicate with my housekeeper. There’s that jealous aftertaste.

Author Lisi Harrison says:

“I do, however, think the message I’m sending IS a good one. I am not saying ‘snobby, mean, pretty, rich girls’ are what we should strive for. I am saying the exact opposite. By using extreme characters and extreme situations I’m hoping you’ll realize how crazy our behavior can be. And come awn (sic). We all do it. After all, I write what I see. But my dream is that soon, I’ll see a lot less of it. And if these books help by making you take a look at the way you and your friends treat each other and yourselves, then maybe my dream will come true.”

But is writing about “snobby, mean, pretty, rich girls” in extreme situations an effective way to show it’s wrong? Imagine you are a typical girl who likes to shop, listen to music, and spend time with your friends. Then you stumble across The Clique books and realize that you have so much more to learn: What is a Moschino mini? My make-up from the drugstore isn’t good enough. What are Jimmy Choo sandals, BCBG dresses? I didn’t know I was supposed to read Vogue, Elle, and Seventeen regularly! You’re suddenly an outsider looking in. What you have isn’t good enough. You are not good enough.
The author says that she writes what she sees. But how does she know that she’s not part of the mechanism which creates the problem in the first place? And, on the other hand, not all studies substantiate the author’s observations. CLIKITS(TM), a children’s toy company, sponsored a national survey of 1,500 girls ages 7 to 14. Some results include: 75% of girls like themselves the way they are, and 87% think people like them for who they are. 95% believe they are good people, and 82% of girls are bold enough to buy clothes they like even if their friends don't care for the style. Does the author really know us (girls)?
So what the author’s trying to say is that these books will help us? After reading her books, I, for one, am not helped. The only thing she’s succeeded in is getting me to buy another book. I’m not a better person. She is selling me unhappiness. So, in the end, I’m jealous and miserable, and The Clique author, Lisi Harrison, gets a pile of money. And I regret to admit, she’ll be getting my $15.99 for the DVD this Fall.

Join the Discussion

This article has 6 comments. Post your own now!

haaay;) said...
Apr. 10, 2013 at 8:41 pm
I partially agree, partially don't. True, girls would get made fun of if they made a clique and called themselves a name like the pretty comittee. But, you say that girls like that don't exist! So not true! Not trying to be shallow, but I live like Massie. I live in a wealthy area in Dallas and go to an all girls private school. No, my afternoons do not consist of shopping but my weekends have budgetless shopping involved. My home is just like Massie's. We are building a spa, we have... (more »)
BlueberryPoptartHasAnAmazinglyLongScreenname said...
Jun. 5, 2010 at 10:11 am
I think it's almost just taking a peek into someone elses life. It's like reading about a sucicidel teenager; it's not encouraging us to be depresseed and unimpressed with our lives, it's showing us how someone so compleately different from us chooses to live their life.
magic-esi This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 9, 2010 at 3:27 pm
This is exactly how I feel! I swear, I have had these exact thoughts running through my head! I imagined 'The Pretty Committee' at my school (who names their group of friends?) immediately being sent to the, as they would say, LBR status. I think, however, that The Clique is like a fantasy to me. Most fantasy books have people who act real in fantasy situations- in Harry Potter, for example, we have real teenagers who happen to be magic. However, this is a social fantasy- a bunch of wa... (more »)
This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 28, 2009 at 10:23 am
This is so true! I have yet to meet a middle-schooler with a designer bag who is liked by other girls. Most of the girls who are that rich are known as "prissy snobs." I don't know anyone older than 7 who names their group of friends, especially something as vain as "the pretty comitte." This article has a lot of great insight! Keep writing!
morgie7<3 said...
Jun. 10, 2009 at 5:55 pm
i love the way you put your opinion. I fought my friends and people i saw reading these books. "Ew, their just about bratty girls that are mean to everyone and all wrapped up with themselves." But once I started reading them, I too was hooked. It's not that I want to be like them. Who names their group of friends? I would be considered a babyish wannabe, like you said, if I did so. Some things in the books are so cheesy they're funny. They're entertaining, but they do not influe... (more »)
hidilley said...
Dec. 20, 2008 at 7:56 pm
Ena, you have a wonderful way with words! I work with girls your age who are in some tough situations, and I agree with you. The last thing they need to focus on is how to be more like the "pretty, rich, mean girls." It's great to see young women like you speaking their minds. Maybe one day YOU will be the author that has an opportunity to influence young people in a positive way. I think you have amazing potential, keep writing, and certainly keep reading, too! :)
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