Thursday, July 29, 2010

Nice and Mean, by Jessica Leader

Nice and MeanMarina and Sachi are as different as two girls can get it seems.  Marina is the most popular girl in the seventh grade.  She is the queen bee among her group of friends, and is, let's be honest, mean.  Sachi, on the other hand, is a nice, if somewhat shy, girl who has a small group of friends, and is greatly sheltered by her Indian parents.  So how do these two very different girls deal with being paired up for an extracurricular activity?

This book, and books like it, may be my secret guilty pleasure.  Jessica Leader wrote this book about middle grade students, and it is a perfect book to readers in the "tween" portion of the young adult spectrum.  The situations are familiar to that age group- popularity, frenemies, boys.  But also, this book teaches young readers a little bit about cultural diversity and tolerance.

There are a lot of different cultures represented in the book, and the characters and plot are most definitely impacted by these cultural differences.  For example, the subtext of Sachi's parental expectations is culturally focused.   This allows readers who may be lacking cultural diversity in their own lives to experience different types of people and groups through reading.  The tolerance taught in the book is more than just cultural, it is tolerance of anyone different from you, which, let's face it, to a middle school reader, that is everyone. I loved that the book shows us how the girls may be quite different, but also quite similar. 

All in all, I really enjoyed this nice, light read, and I really think it would appeal to middle school female readers.  There are some quality lessons in the book, wrapped in context and language that a tween will find believable and relatable.

A touring review copy of this book was made available courtesy of Traveling ARC Tours.