Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Swimming with the Sharks

fischer, Debbie Reed. 2008. Swimming with the Sharks.

The list is titled Top Ten Guys Who Are Still Virgins. Dorkowitz tops it off at number one, of course.

I didn't care for this one. I'll be honest. It's a book about mean girls--mean cheerleaders to be exact--who go to great lengths to torture the newest cheerleader, Ellika, and 'persuade' her into quitting. Why is she on the team to begin with? Her family is rich, they made a very large contribution to the school--to the gym I believe--and this was one of the stipulations: a place for their chunky/plus-size daughter on the varsity cheering squad. Our narrator, Peyton Grady, goes along with Operation Smellika--in fact she commits several of these cruelties personally--including smashing Ellika's glasses to pieces. It isn't until bones get broken and heads get concussed that Peyton sees the bigger picture and decides to break the pact. And even then it's a tough decision for her.

I suppose we're supposed to 'like' Peyton. This bystander who silently questions but still acts and goes along with the others on the team. Peyton has a conscience, but she's choosing to not listen to what her instincts are telling her. Peyton is clueless about many things. Things that the reader won't be. It's easy to predict each twist and turn in this one. Only Peyton and Ellika seem not to see the truth that's right in front of their faces.

Ellika. I have a hard time in believing in Ellika as a character. Yes, I feel sorry for her--in a way--but I have a hard time believing she could be so stupid or naive. Ellika is used to being teased, used to being called names, so why she goes and seeks out the popular crowd is beyond me. She's a new student, and she wants to 'buy' her way into the 'in' crowd? She thinks it will work? That she'll suddenly become popular? become accepted? That she'll be like that girl in the movies--the ugly duckling who transforms herself into the most popular, beautiful girl in the school. The fact that she perseveres no matter how much abuse--physical, mental, emotional--is piled onto her by her teammates...that she doesn't quit the team, that she doesn't tell her parents, that she doesn't want to change schools, etc. That she honestly believes that she can outlast and outwit the cheerleaders. That if she endures the pain, the torment, the abuse, that by the end of the school year she'll have made it, made new friends, found a place to belong. Why would she want to "belong" in the first place? Why would she want these bullies to be her friends? Why does she seek out their acceptance knowing how cruel and mean and stupid they all are? I have a hard time believing that anyone could ever welcome that much abuse into their lives.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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