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Odd Girl Speaks Out: Girls Write about Bullies, Cliques, Popularity, and Jealousy by Rachel Simmons
208 pages Harvest Books January 2004 Paperback rated 4 1/2 out of 5 stars   

Most of the chapters in Odd Girl Speaks Out are letters written by adolescent girl. These letters were written in response to the author’s call for submissions from girls who had experienced being the Odd Girl Out in school. These girls who had been rejected, spurned, ignored or mocked now had a chance to speak about those traumatic experiences.

Odd Girl Speaks Out is a companion to Odd Girl Out, Simmons' earlier book of research on the same subject. It is an anthology of prose and poetry by adolescent girls who were ostracized by their peers. These writings create a mirror in which other girls who have gone through this situation – or who may be going through it – will look and realize they aren’t alone. Because this book is essentially a collection of stories told in narrative form, many victims of school-aged bullying will find the book easy to read and will probably commiserate and identify with many of the narrators.

Simmons’ knowledge of women’s studies and political science shows in her commentary in several small chapters. Those small analytical chapters are short, readable and unintrusive making the book user-friendly for young girls who would probably be more interested in seeing stories that mirror their life experiences. The book will enable them to receive insights about their victims, or their own actions in their victimization. And it will probably also show them what they already know: that success for adolescent girls mean being popular and being noticed, being praised or even envied by their peers, and if popularity doesn’t come, and if a girl is not lucky enough to blend into the background she will become the butt of bullies. Simmons' commentary is light and she seems to understand her readers, even explaining why many girls simply do not buy the old “that girl is only bullying you because she is jealous” excuse. She explains that sometimes this may be true, but oftentimes the bullies are being cruel for many reasons, ranging from self-rejection that often accompanies family trauma, other personal struggles, to examination of their own power, to plain old cruelty.

Simmons commentary doesn’t let the victim off the hook either. As these letters show, often a girl becomes Odd Girl Out not because there is anything irreparably wrong with her but because she is awkward, socially-inept, has opened herself to being a victim of a manipulative person, has made a faux-pas or crossed the wrong person, or has tangled with someone who decides to turn her into a scapegoat. It might heal many young girls to know that the reasons for bullying vary from jealousy, hatred, insensitive, or vengeful. Or sometimes because the bully’s home life is in turmoil. Those letters from girls who have moved away from the ostracism show that life goes on, even if one enters and advances into the outside world a little scarred. Odd Girl Speaks Out, a book written by girls and for girls will wring a parent’s heart and might possibly heal the hearts of young girls who feel they are alone.

Every girl who has been bullied by those in her school, neighborhood, religious studies or church group should get this book. Highly recommended.

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