Sunday, February 1, 2009

Debbie Reed Fischer. SWIMMING WITH THE SHARKS

Peyton Grady is a junior in high school who has just made it to the varsity cheerleading squad. She’s thrilled that might be able to finally hang out with the Alphas at school. The Alphas are the in-crowd at Beachwood Preparatory Academy, the private school Peyton attends on a scholarship. She’s never really felt like she belonged, but now Peyton is beginning to think that this will be her best year yet. Then one day, a new girl names Ellika arrives and without a try-out or anything, the principal sticks her on the varsity cheer squad. Ellika is not what you’d think of as the average looking cheerleader. She is uncoordinated, overweight, and dorky. The girls are all fuming, but most of all, the captain Lexie Court is livid. Lexie is the most popular, beautiful, perfect girl in school. And she basically gets whatever she wants, but when she can’t get Ellika (or Smellika as they begin to call her) off the squad, she cooks up her own way to get her off. It’s called Operation Smellika. They begin their operation with small practical jokes and continue with bigger and bigger cruel hazing rituals. Peyton begins to hesitate as the stakes get higher, but then Lexie pressures her and she relents. When the final act looks like someone may get seriously hurt, Peyton must decide whether she is comfortable swimming with the sharks or not.
Wow, what a shocking portrayal of how mean teens can get. Perhaps I’ve blocked most of the bad parts out, but I don’t remember people being that mean in middle or high school. But I can relate to that feeling of being afraid to stand up to someone who is pressuring you to do something you know you shouldn’t do. I admire those teens today who seem to have the strength to do what’s right, no matter what others think. That was a hard one for me as a teen.
Anyway, this is a funny, sad, moving, and gripping novel about a girl who grapples with her identity and how to do what’s right, especially when it’s difficult. Debbie Reed Fischer is an awesome new author. I really enjoyed her writing. Her descriptions are witty and lively, and so is the dialogue! I laughed out loud, when I wasn’t cringing over the meanness.
If you’d like to find out more about her or other books, check out her website here.