Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Secret Rites of Social Butterflies: Lizabeth Zindel

Another book sale find, The Secret Rites of Social Butterflies attracted me with the beautiful blue butterfly on the cover. I should know better than to judge a book by it’s cover.

Maggie is a high school senior whose parents just split up. She and her mom moved to the big city—I mean The Big City of NYC—and Maggie was sent to the very prestigious Berkley Prep for girls. So she’s the new girl and of course she’s all nervous and trying to fit in. Except she’s not really that nervous and there’s nothing about Maggie in the first few chapters that makes me believe she’s desperate to fit in. Then again, she’s a teenage girl in The City. So when a chain of events leads to her invitation into a super special clique called The Revelers, she jumps at the chance to be uber popular. The clique isn’t what it seems though (are you surprised, readers?), and Maggie soon finds herself with top secret information about everyone in school. She begins to feel the inkling that it’s not right for a group of girls to know so much private information about the entire school, but she somehow manages to brush off the feeling of unease, because after all, being popular is more important than anything as silly as ethics. So Maggie is living the high life, dating a cute boy, hanging with the popular girls, blah blah blah. Surely you can see where this is going. There has to be conflict. Which comes so late in the story, I began to wonder if it was coming at all. The secret stash of secrets comes to light and Maggie has to face the fact that she placed popularity above good reason and ethical standards.

I imagine that those thirteen and fourteen year old girls who love love love to watch Gossip Girl because they think being seventeen and popular is the greatest thing on Earth, would love this book. It’s dishy and girly and emphasizes the importance of fitting in. Honestly, the underlying moral is a little too “under” for my taste. Maggie is basically a flat character who doesn’t seem to have any personality of her own. She’s uninteresting, and worse, she’s a bad friend.

The group dynamic was interesting in the sense that it was akin to “Heathers”. There’s a leader of the pack, and the other girls are basically interchangeable. Lexi, Sydney, Maggie—they’re all just following what the Queen Victoria demands they do. But hey, who doesn’t love a story about high school lemmings?

There is this really fascinating nugget of story that makes the book somewhat redeemable. The store of secrets—called The Wall—poses the question, when is information Truth and when is it just Gossip? It’s certainly a redeemable plot line, but the delivery is too weak. Lizabeth Zindel writes in a way that panders to the middle school crowd. It feels like she is more concerned with not offending the kiddos than she is with making a statement about gossip. Which is just plain confusing for an adult reader.

Overall, I don’t think much of this one. There’s definitely potential, but the language and the delivery of the plot are just too juvenile. I’m not sure it would even communicate any kind of message to young readers who might find the story engaging.

Rating: $


  1. Hmmmm. I guess I'll pass. You pretty much covered it. I don't like this kind of writing. Middle school is such a wobbly, vulnerable time of life. I have my doubts about the value of young adult novels.

  2. I'm in the middle of reading it and it's actually not that bad Ilove it so far!!!!!!!!!!!!