Monday, August 12, 2013

NICE AND MEAN by Jessica Leader

NICE AND MEAN by Jessica Leader (Aladdin, 2010)

Opening Lines: "When I realized I was about to flip through the Seventeen Back-to-School Fashions for the third time that afternoon, I slammed the magazine shut and hurled it across the room."

What it's about: Told in dual POV. Marina is the "Mean." She's a 7th-grade Queen Bee, who is feeling threatened by one of her "friends," Rachel. She hatches a plot to show Rachel up in a video called Victim/Victorious.

Sachi is also in 7th grade, and she is the "Nice." However, she's also definitely a C-lister, and usually far beneath Marina's notice. Her family moved to New York from India when she was a young child, and they are focused entirely on Test Prep so that Sachi can get into the best high school. Sachi has a love for making videos.

That's how Sachi and Marina end up in the same video class. Much to their horror, the teacher assigns them to be partners.

What I Liked: This novel has great insight into middle school cliques and manipulations. Both voices are captivating and very different. Each POV shift is introduced with either an excerpt from Marina's "Little Black Book" or from Sachi's Video Nightmare/Lifemare, in which Sachi runs a screenplay through her head of all the awful things befalling her.

It has a satisfying ending. Sachi and Marina find they can cooperate. They will never be in the same social circle, but they have learned valuable lessons about themselves and about one another. The final words are very appropriately "Fade to Black."

About the Author: Jessica Leader is a writer and teacher living in Washington, D.C. She graduated from Brown University and holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. NICE AND MEAN is her first novel. You can learn more about Jessica Leader on her fun website.