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Child & Adolescent Development: Overview

Review of "The Notebook Girls"

By Julia Baskin, Lindsey Newman, Sophie Pollitt-Cohen, and Courtney Toombs
Warner Books, 2006
Review by Amy Ridley on Jan 30th 2007
The Notebook Girls

The Notebook Girls is a gritty, shocking look into the lives of four freshman girls who attend Stuyvesant High School in New York City. The four friends began keeping a journal that they took turns writing entries in when they entered high school. This is a no-holds barred accounts of their interactions with each other, their interactions with boys, experiences with alcohol, drugs and sex and their insights on everything from religion to 9/11.

The notebook includes entries from all four girls over their two and a half years of high school. The book is in their own handwriting and includes photos that the girls added to the book themselves. Their entries include scathing commentary on some of their friends and even each other. They are not afraid to call one another out if they feel that one of their actions is something that could hurt them physically or emotionally.

The casual attitude towards drugs, alcohol and sex was somewhat shocking. There was no real fear of getting caught by their parents or possible repercussions. These girls are very streetwise and can be casual about serious issues: one of the them gets arrested for drug possession and it is treated as though she was caught coming home fifteen minutes late for curfew. The access these girls have to alcohol and drugs never seemed to be a surprising fact to them. It was always known that they would be able to smoke pot any day that they wanted to, which they did. There did not appear to be any peer pressure causing the girls to engage in these dangerous activities. It appeared to be a rite of passage. Many of these milestones are ones that older readers will remember experiencing in college, not as freshman in high school.

The girls all appear to have normal backgrounds and families, although it is hard to tell since the families are not a main focus of the entries. There would be a reference, for example, to a trip to visit an older sister or going to the movies with their parents but the most parental interaction written about was after one of the girls had smoked some laced pot and was hallucinating.

Religion also played a large part in the lives of a few of the girls. The have arguments regarding their different beliefs and share their families' traditions with one another. The most poignant moment that reminds the reader that these are teenage girls despite their actions was an entry that described how much fun the girls had while decorating a Christmas tree with one of the families. It was a sweet moment that balanced out the dinner party the girls attended thrown by one of the mother's where an older male guest was leering at them.

This book demonstrates how much of adolescence is lost on today's children. They are so fast to try the next thing in the maturation process. These girls did not allow things to just happen naturally. They were all aggressive in different ways seeking to experience the next rite of passage. The freedom that they had in the city seemed to add to their opportunities to engage in what was dangerous activities that most parents would not want their children involved in. These journals show how much society has changed.

The most positive aspect of the book was that the girls matured significantly by the time they decided to end their entries. They looked back on their behavior and questioned their own decision making. They were beginning to plan for college and worry about their grades. These were smart girls who made questionable decisions and learned from them. They surprised themselves and each other and they will also surprise most of their readers.

 

 

© 2007 Amy Ridley

 

Amy Ridley received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Boston University.

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