Cliques by Toney Allman. 112 p. Farmington Hills: Lucent, 2011. 978-1-4205-0308-1.
Cliques, like bullying, are often not publicly acknowledged to exist in many schools, yet any large group of individuals seems to contain smaller, closer groups of friends. It is when those groups become what the text differentiates as “exclusive cliques” that deliberate exclusion tends to result in teasing, bullying, and gossip.
Cliques argues that the grouping instinct underpinning social cliques is most problematic in middle school and early high school, where such groups are often thought to be an unavoidable consequence of the large, impersonal scale of secondary schools. Though the use of certain clothing and jewelry as signifiers may be unique to a particular community, the text argues that sociologists have found clustering of those of similar race and ethnic background to track more closely with common interests rather than demonstrating deliberate and coordinated exclusion of different types of individuals.
There is practical advice for the targets of bullies and for students hoping to fight cliques on their peers’ behalf. Larger cures for social fragmentation are also presented, including a discussion of a conscious emphasis on empathy within the school climate with the expectation that the guidance of caring adults could reduce overall ostracism, meanness, and aggression. Discussion of attempts to create kinder schools climates includes programmatic efforts to either downplay or embrace diversity, such as Teaching Tolerance’s Mix It Up at Lunch day and the institution of theoretically democratizing uniform policies.
Like other volumes in the Hot Topics series, the text includes first-hand accounts from celebrities affected by the issues in question, in this case Hayden Panettiere discussing being teased as a child. The volume presents information in the always-sought area of school-shootings, particularly Columbine, and there is also discussion of gang behavior and increasing violence on the part of girls. The book examines the phenomenon of bullycide, suicide as a result of prolonged bullying, with accounts of specific students.
The volume includes international perspectives on adolescent social dynamics drawn from the U.K., Austria, Egypt, and Malaysia, demonstrating that though the criteria for exclusion might vary cross-culturally, the deleterious effects are the same. Supplementary information includes endnote citations, discussion questions for each chapter, organizational contact information, and resources including books, Internet sources, and an index.
Allman borrows heavily from Rosaland Wiseman’s Queen Bees and Wannabes and the movie Mean Girls, whose screenwriter Tina Fey drew from Wiseman’s nonfiction source material. Wiseman’s book will be a good companion to this volume. The volume will help students find an appropriate vocabulary, including “social cruelty” and “relationship aggression,” to describe all-important social dynamics. Recommended for school libraries.