junior high is as dystopian as it gets

Do you remember junior high? That awkward time where your elementary BFF’s start to drift away because you’re in a new school with new people and all of a sudden you have options. Do you want to be in band, track, orchestra, choir? What electives are you going to take? Are you going to be in honors classes or regular? And the most important question – are you going to hang out in the popular crowd, or some other group? That is, if you have the choice.

I read a wonderful book this weekend by my friend and critique partner, Cynthia T. Toney. Bird Face is her debut novel, and because she wrote it before I joined the Scriblerian critique group, I had heard about it but had never gotten to read it. It just released on February 11th, and, yes, it was definitely worth the wait. :)

My junior high was grades 7-9, so basically a bunch of 12-15 year olds trying to figure out who they were and how to relate to the world. I was shy, in the gifted/talented program, and in band. I also had glasses and braces until I got contacts in 8th grade. I had very poor fashion sense and was incredibly skinny. Not because I had an eating disorder, but because I just didn’t like food (I no longer have that problem, sadly). I still cringe at my old school photos. So I can totally relate to Wendy Robichaud, the main character in Bird Face, as being shy, OK looking at best, and in the shadow of a gorgeous best friend. My BFF in junior high/high school was voted Most Beautiful our senior year. :) I didn’t begrudge her that, she was and still is beautiful.

Bird Face is an authentic look at the important transitional years of junior high. Wendy figures out who she is going to be over the course of the book. Will she be defined by her friends, parents, or a name-calling boy? She struggles with divorced parents, anonymous notes of encouragement, a misunderstood bully, and girls with eating disorders. Not only is this book incredibly well written, the message is strong and from a non-preachy Christian worldview. As a parent, it reminds me of what it was like to be in junior high which will help me empathize with my girls as they get to that age. And I want to read it and discuss it with both my daughters as well. This is realistic Christian fiction at its best!

You can read an excerpt from Bird Face and enter to win an autographed copy at Cynthia Toney’s blog. Definitely stop by and tell her I sent you! ;)

And now, dear friends, what were you like in junior high?

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7 thoughts on “junior high is as dystopian as it gets

  1. Boy-crazy. But smart enough not to show it. Definitely the middle of the pack as far as looks, personality etc. What I remember about jr. high was the fights among boys. Totally did not understand that.

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    • LOL. It’s still difficult for me to understand boys and fighting. My husband will get together with some men to watch UFC.

      We had girls that got into fights in junior high as well. There were some really scary people at my junior high.

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  2. I do not have fond memories of middle school & high school. My confidence & self-image was awful. My husband cringes at some of my stories. I think it was a combination of my personality (so shy, smart, bookworm: geek), a sudden move in 7th or 8th grade (literally overnight, with no chance to prepare mentally and not even a chance for good-byes to any friends) and then horrible skin problems that began to appear just after the move. My parents made the decision to home-school us right when I was finishing the 5th grade and I honestly don’t know how I would have survived those years otherwise. Youth-group was as awful and cliquish as any public school but I thrived away from that environment (short-term missions trips, etc).

    It’s something always in the back of my mind while bringing up our daughter. I want her to feel comfortable enough to share her insecurities with us. And to be filled with confidence and security in the Lord. It’s also why I decided she can get earrings when starting middle school, if she wants. My parents made us wait until we turned 13. But with the transition from elementary to middle school being so difficult, I want her to have that little boost to her image if she needs it.

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    • Are you going to home school your daughter? Just curious.

      Both my daughters just got their ears pierced three weeks ago because they asked. That’s what my mom did–waited for me to ask to get them pierced. Make-up and dating will be an entirely different matter though!

      The thing I liked about Bird Face, and I hope you will read it, is that even the popular kids, the ones that everyone else wished that they were, still had the same problems with fitting in and finding who they are. And I think it’s true. I’m not sure if anyone would say “Junior High was the BEST EVER!!!” LOL. If they do, I’m pretty sure they’d be lying.

      It’s so cruel that pimples happen in middle school/junior high. *sigh*

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      • We debate the home-school situation. My husband isn’t very supportive of it, so that’s a big factor. He thinks my family was too sheltered due to the homeschooling. But I think there’s a nuance between being protected from the world vs oblivious to its existence. Also, at this point in time, I don’t think I’m really equipped to handle daughter’s moderately severe dyslexia on my own. I’d be lost without the fantastic support system she is getting at our small-town school.

        But it’s something I definitely plan to revisit as she gets older and has a better handle on her reading ability. We’ll see what she encounters in school here. I have a feeling our small town handles the transition a lot easier than some. All three schools are lined up in a row and even overlap in many ways. (There’s one cafeteria, music & art are in the middle school, the library is in the high school, etc.)

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  3. For me, high school went a little sideways. I skipped a grade in order to graduate early, so I ended up in a never-land, separated from my friends who were still in 10th grade, yet not fitting in with fellow Seniors who had shared classes for the previous three years. Always an avid reader, I became a super-nerd and went through books like kittens in a bed of catnip.

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