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by Rachel Simmons
Harvest Books, 2004
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Apr 18th 2005

Odd Girl Speaks Out

The idea that children and adolescents are frequently horrible to each other is hardly new, but it has received a great deal of attention in recent years.  In Surviving Ophelia, Mary Pipher argued that young women suffer terrible pressures as they enter their teens and some of those were from their peers.  It is not just boys calling girls names like "slut" and "bitch," and in fact girls can be even more hateful than boys.  The phenomenon of "mean girls" is so well known that a Hollywood comedy has been made about it.  Many students are bullied, and many of the bullies are girls.  Not surprisingly, both parents and students who have suffered from such behavior are starting to speak out about it.  Rachel Simmons' book Odd Girl Out focused especially on how adolescents, especially girls, would punish other girls by excluding them from their social groups.  In this new book, she collects together accounts by girls of the kind of treatment she was talking about.

Odd Girl Speaks Out is a short book, with 200 pages of fairly large print.  The book is divided into six chapters, but they are all rather similar.  Simmons writes a short introduction to each, followed by short account or poems by girls of how they have suffered or caused others to suffer.  For example, Jane (14) explains how she used to be popular until the sixth grade when she was diagnosed with dyslexia.  Then other children started calling her "sped" (for special ed student) or "retard" and she lost her old friends.  She says that her mother made her watch an Oprah show on aggressive girls, which helped, but things are still quite difficult for her in the eighth grade.  Story after story recounts how girls who were best friends suddenly transform into bitter enemies, and how the one who loses out spends a great deal of time crying at home, feeling outcast and lonely.

The uniformity of the stories becomes rather boring.  It would be much more interesting to get more detail about a fewer number of girls, because the details really give individuality and richness to an account of a difficult experience.  Furthermore, the writers are all young and are not particularly eloquent writers.  Personally, I found the poetry excruciating.  But then, I'm not the intended audience for a book like this.  Teen girls who are going through a hard time because of social exclusion may well find Odd Girl Speaks Out a comfort.  It could assure them that many other girls have been in similar positions and that life will get better.  It might also help parents better understand the difficulties their daughters are experiencing at school. 


© 2005 Christian Perring. All rights reserved. 


Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.


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