November 20, 2006

Livin' on the Edge

This book is a 2006 Cybil Award Nominee for YA Fiction.

It was supposedly just a social studies project. Adora Benet is going to change her status at her school -- for an assignment.
It has nothing to do with the fact that she wishes dearly that she was popular, that someone would pay attention to her, and make her one of the Ruling Class in the junior class. Nope, nothing to do with that. Dora's not all that big on being honest with herself. 'Cause if she was honest, she'd admit that she hates being at the lower end of the pecking order. She hates being not quite It-Girl enough to count. She's pretty, but not gorgeous. Her family is 'comfortable,' but there's no way they're as rich as Sondra Fortune, whose mother is a designer, and whose father is some kind of corporate guru. Dora's tired of being way out on the fringes of things, so when Sondra's snipes hit a little close to the bone, Dora decides it's time to take a chance and overthrow the school -- in the name of social science, of course.

With the help of her best friends Elizabeth (Eli) and Elizabeth (Liza), Dora starts kicking butt and taking names. Dora's movements are tracked in the school newspaper, her comments repeated in the hallways, and in the lower school. Jaya, Dora's little sister, is hero-worshipping on a major scale, and suddenly Dora realizes that SHE is the new king of the school -- I mean, yeah, thanks to Liza and Eli, but they're kind of getting up her nose lately anyway. Sondra Fortune is a total nobody now, and her little syncophant, Noel, has no one to come to his jazz gigs anymore. Even the "evil twins" who were Sondra's best friends no longer have the Golden Life. Dora doesn't have time to worry about it, though. She's finally got her crush, Vin, to spend some major quality time with her, and after her crusading for justice lands her in detention, she meets another gorgeous guy who seems to only have eyes for her. Is Dora's life finally coming together? Or is she just cruising for the hardest fall of all?

Fast paced, amusing, and just slightly improbable, Fringe Girl takes on high school cliques and clich├ęs and turns them around. I was mildly disappointed that a prime opportunity to talk about race (hapas, and the one-drop rule) was glossed over quickly, but the focus of the novel wasn't perhaps deep enough for this. Still, a quick, entertaining read.

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