About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

#68: The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth

The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory, and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School, by Alexandra Robbins (New York: Hyperion, 2011)

"Cross Gossip Girl with Freaks and Geeks and MTV's MADE, a shocking plot twist, and Alexandra Robbins' signature investigative style -- and that only begins to describe Geeks, a smart, entertaining, reassuring book about the secrets of students who are popular and the triumph of those who are not. Robbins follows seven real people grappling with the uncertainties of high school social life, including:
  • Danielle, the Loner, who has withdrawn from classmates since they persuaded her to unwittingly join her own hate club
  • Whitney, the Popular Bitch, a cheerleading captain both seduced by and trapped within her clique's perceived prestige
  • Eli, the Nerd, whose differences cause students to laugh at him, and his mother to needle him for not being 'normal'
  • Joy, the New Girl, determined to stay positive as classmates harass her for her mannerisms and target her because of her race
  • Mark, the Gamer, an underachiever in danger of not graduating, despite his intellect and his yearning to connect with other students
  • Regan, the Weird Girl, who battles discrimination and gossipy politics in school but leads a joyous life outside of it
  • Noah, the Band Geek, who is alternately branded too serious and too emo, yet annually runs for class president
"In the middle of the year, Robbins surprises her subjects with a secret challenge -- experiments that force them to change how classmates see them and teach us why the things that set students apart in high school are the things that help them stand out later in life.

"Robbins intertwines these narratives -- often victorious, occasionally heartbreaking, and always captivating -- with essays exploring subjects like:
  • How do you get to be popular?
  • Being excluded doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you
  • Why outsiders succeed
  • How schools make the social scene worse -- and how to fix it.
"The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth is more than just a book. It's a movement. And whether you're a student or an adult, it will change the way you think about your friends, your school, and -- most of all -- yourself."

Table of Contents:
  • Prologue
  • Chapter 1: Meet the Cafeteria Fringe
Late Summer to Early Fall: The Popularity Myth
  • Chapter 2: Quirk Theory and the Secret of Popularity
  • Chapter 3: Why Are Popular People Mean?
Fall: Why Quirk Theory Works
  • Chapter4: In the Shadow of the Freak Tree
  • Chapter 5: It's Good to Be the Cafeteria Fringe
Winter: Outcast Profiling and Other Dangers
  • Chapter 6: Challenges
  • Chapter 7: Misperceptions
Late Winter to Early Spring: Being Excluded Doesn't Mean There's Anything Wrong with You
  • Chapter 8: A Brief Introduction to Group Psychology
  • Chapter 9: Why Labels Stick: The Motivations of the Normal Police
Spring: Quirk Theory's Origins: Why These Issues Are Hardest in School
  • Chapter 10: Changing Perceptions
  • Chapter 11: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
Late Spring to Early Summer: Popular vs. Outcast
  • Chapter 12: Popularity Doesn't Lead to Happiness
  • Chapter 13: The Rise of the Cafeteria Fringe
  • Chapter 14: Cafeteria Fringe: Lucky and Free
My Take:
Brilliant, sometimes painful, but on the whole inspiring and provocative. An absolute must-read for (among others) anyone who still struggles from time to time with their own adolescent-outcast demons at the same time they're trying to help their own child start to navigate the same shark-infested waters. Not that I'd know anything about this personally, mind you.

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