Thursday, April 14, 2011

Gossip from the Girls’ Room (Book)

Author: Rose Cooper. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Delacorte Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9780385739474.
Plot summary: 6th-grader Sofia Becker is certain she will reach extreme popularity status if she has the juiciest blog on her school’s website. She begins posting anonymously as the Blogtastic Blogger, and keeps a pre-blog notebook where she records all of the gossip she uncovers, mostly by eavesdropping in the girls’ room. Her best friend, Nona Bows, helps her maintain the blog and keeps her identity secret. The main subject of the Blogtastic Blog? Mia St. Claire, the most popular girl at school. It seems like Mia has a crush on Sofia’s “boyfriend” (he might not realize he’s Sofia’s boyfriend, or that she even likes him), Andrew. Determined to overthrow Mia’s popularity and restore Andrew’s “affections,” Sofia seeks out the juiciest gossip she can find about Mia. But what happens when Sofia discovers that Mia isn’t such a bad person after all?
Review:  Harkening to female fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid this debut novel in Cooper’s Blogtastic! series brings the online aspects of middle school society to the forefront. Sofia is not a particularly likeable protagonist. It’s never really explained why she hates Mia St. Claire so much (the crush on Sofia’s “boyfriend” happens after she has already declared her dislike for the popular, Mia). Sofia doesn’t really seem to have any qualms about bluntly pointing out the faults of her teachers, classmates, parents, and even her best friend, Nona. Despite the fact that Sofia is fairly hard to feel sympathetic for, her actions and behavior is actually relevant. Middle and high school students often take liberties in expressing their feelings online, not realizing that what is said is just as hurtful as if it was in person. It’s clear that Sofia would never say in real-life what she says on her blog, and this is an important lesson for young readers to understand. When she discovers that the object of her hate, Mia St. Claire, is actually a nice person, the hurtful things she’s gone out of her way to spread through the school seem to express more about Sofia’s self-confidence than about her nemesis. While some tweens are likely to dislike Sofia, others will undoubtedly understand her predicament, and be interested in the sequel Cooper promises at the end of the story, Gossip From the Boys’ Room (2012).
Genre: Fiction/Humor
Reading level: Grades 5-7
Similar titles:  Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney, Dork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russell, and The Popularity Papers by Amy Ignatow.
Personal thoughts:  This title received mixed reviews from the professional journals, and I was interested to see why there were such different perspectives (Kirkus and Booklist loved it, Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal hated it.) After reading it, I tend to venture more on the side of PW and SLJ. I found the character of Sofia to be such a huge brat, I almost gave up on the book. What I realized, however, is that there are many Sofia who exist out in the middle school world: spreading rumors about people online, caught up in their own world, very self-centered, etc. The lesson about avoiding gossip is one that is often learned through difficult circumstances in middle school, and I think that Gossip from the Girls’ Room might be a good starting point to warn tweens about the pitfalls of talking about people behind their back. I will most likely read the follow up novel to see where Rose Cooper takes the characters.
Themes: Middle school, blogs, gossip.  
Awards/Reviews: Positive review from Kirkus and Booklist.
Series Information:  First installment in the Blogtastic! series by Rose Cooper.   
Character information:
Sofia Becker – 6th grader who is obsessed with becoming popular. She begins blogging anonymously as the Blogtastic Blogger and hopes her blog will launch her social status. She has a very strong dislike for Mia St. Claire, and a crush on Andrew.
Nona Bows – 6th grader and best friend of Sofia. She isn’t as interested in the blog, but helps Sofia with it when she can. She has a crush on Mike.
Mia St. Claire – The most popular girl in the 6th grade and Sofia’s arch-nemesis. Mia seems to be unaware of Sofia’s dislike, and is discovered to be a nice person.
Andrew – Sofia’s crush who is oblivious to her affections. He calls Sofia “Barfia” because she threw up on his gym shoes. He is briefly Mia’s object of affection.
Mrs. Becker – Sofia’s mom. Sofia is embarrassed when she becomes a substitute teacher at the middle school.
Annotation:  It’s hard to become super popular in 6th grade, but Sofia Becker is determined that her juicy blog will launch her into the social stratosphere!

1 comment:

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