Two paragraphs of disclosure will make my review more meaningful. I was a happy, well-adjusted 5th and 6th grader. New to my elementary school in the 5th grade, I quickly and easily found a best friend + nice group of friends. Then the following year in junior high, two "queen bees" came along and decided they wanted the same group of friends, best friend and all--without me in it. They invited the other girls to a sleepover party right in front of me, and suddenly I was friendless. Devastated, I came home that day sobbing, to parents who had no idea what to do except to send me to a psychiatrist, which did no good at all.
My "lunch tray moments" consisted of going from table to table, trying to sit down, and kids telling me I wasn't welcome to sit with them, and then eating by myself in the detention room, the only place that would have me. My "gym class moments" consisted of being the girl left over when the last team captain chose the second-to-last girl, and then the other team captain declaring she never picked me and that I was not on her team. I adapted first making friends with the neighborhood dogs who all accepted me with love and dignity, and then by getting involved with out-of-school activities and making lots of friends outside of school. By 10th grade, I had friends at school again.
It is with this background that I read "Queen Bees and Wanna Bees"--the book I wish had been around in the 1970s when I suffered the trauma of being a target. I am appalled that these dynamics continue to this day, and that targets have it WORSE than I did. When I got home, the bullying stopped, and I was free to do my homework, not to be bullied until bright and early the next day. Now the bullying of targets is CONSTANT, via Facebook, email, text message, etc. Mothers and Dads, PLEASE take the plight of the targets seriously--it's not just a bit of girl drama--it's BRUTAL to experience.
I am relieved an adult finally took notice of these dynamics, understands them, and not only explains them to parents, she them what to do about it and how to PREVENT it. Wiseman advises parents to create a code of family behavior where family members treat people with dignity, outside the family as well as with. An example is the first chapter on technology, new to this revised edition. Parents are advised when they allow adolescents and teens to have email accounts, Facebook accounts, cell phones, etc. that they sign a family contract which explains they will not use these technologies to embarrass people, humiliate them, spread lies, disseminate naked- or half-naked photos, etc. And the contract specifies punishments for first, second, and third offenses. I think this entire chapter shows brilliance, and is worth the price of the book alone.
It's not just the parents of the target who need this book, but the parents of the queen bee bullies and people users, and the bystanders who stand there silently, not taking a stand on behalf of the targets, and rewarding the queen bees with their allegiance and friendship. For example, there's an example in the book of how to talk to your daughter after she paid a popular boy $5.00 to ask out a target and then dump her the next day. The hypothetical mom marches her daughter over to apologize to the target, and tells her daughter, "If you apologize with a fake or mean tone in your voice or the content of your words comes across as giving a fake apology, then I will apologize on your behalf. And since you did it at school, you are also going to apologize to your teacher and principal for going against the school's rules of treating people with dignity."
Another important concept of the book is to realize that girls within cliques deal with the straightjacket of conformity--hair, clothes, hobbies, behavior, etc, and often put up with verbal abuse from the queen bees. These girls internalize that it's better to put up with abuse than be ostracized from the group. This sets the stage for them to become women who put up with abusive relationships rather than leave.
As much as I don't like to deduct a star from this must-read book, the presentation is uneven. Parts of the book are totally brilliant, while other parts appear scant and hastily written. For example, Wiseman describes different types of parents. Some of these types just have a few sentences written about them and no concrete examples. Plus she misses a lot of types. Or there will be teasers, "If She Says `You Don't Trust Me!'" but no follow up on how to handle this comment.
My main grievance with the book is that I think Wiseman is way too overpermissive in letting a girl wear whatever she wants. I can understand Wiseman's arguments for letting a girl wear green hair, or be Goth if she wants to be. But going out of the house looking too sexy at too young an age? Wiseman says to discuss it with her, but then let her do what she wants. No way! Wiseman wants parents to put their foot down when it comes to the appropriate use of technology, but she becomes meek and overpermissive when it comes to inappropriate wardrobe. Also, when your daughter says she "needs" the latest greatest expensive shoes or purse, parents are supposed to understand how crucial this is for her and to not always say no to these request. IMO, when parents give into this high fashion nonsense, they're training their daughters to be materialistic, manipulative, and spendy. So many parents are afraid to say "no" to their child beginning at age 2, they create these entitled fashion snobs we see today.
If more parents had and enforced a code of behavior, not only how to treat people in the household, but out of the house, our schools and our world would be a better place. Likewise, I'd like to see school teachers and administrators read this book, and come up with codes of anti-bullying behavior where everyone at the school treats everyone else with dignity. If and when more adults get on board with anti-bullying, school will not only be physically and emotionally a safer place, but students more able to learn and compete academically with students from other nations.
P.S. My personal story has a happy ending. In addition to being happily married to the best husband in the world and having lots of friends, I've reconnected with my former best friend, and am now friends with one of the queen bees. It doesn't pay to hold grudges. :-)