When the uber-popular clique known as the Bitches asks freshman Jane to be their fourth, they assure her that her life will change forever. There's only one catch: each week Jane must steal something from another girl and put it on the desk of a creepy teacher known as Lurl the Pearl (the girls explain that the only way to gain power is to steal it from another: "For one to rise, another must fall"). Jane thinks it's "an initiation... to prove I'm, like, loyal," until she feels it work and knows some sort of witchcraft is at play. Ultimately, she has to decide if her sudden elite status is worth the cost. The Bitches themselves come across as archetypes (Keisha's responsible, Bitsy's mean and Mary Bryan's sweet), but the feral cats roaming the campus deepen the eerie factor, and Jane's father's desertion of his family and the Bitches' own tragedies add some depth to their characters. Bitsy leads a menacing attack on an unpopular girl that seems to contradict the plot's often-playful spirit, and even Jane's own eventual fall is fairly cruel. Still, readers are likely to get swept away along with Jane as she enjoys gourmet food in the cafeteria, sudden attention from her crush and a birthday party thrown by her classmates (even though it's not her birthday). Ultimately Myracle's (ttyl) novel is an addictive read with a poignant message about the price of popularity. Ages 14-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Plain Jane Goodwin is a nothing-special freshman until the ultra "it" girls at school tap her to join their group of the most popular girlsThe Bitches. What do Bitsy, Keisha, Mary Bryanand now Janehave that makes other girls so envious, and that so rivets boys' attention? As the successful author of novels chronicling teen and pre-teen friendships takes on the ever-brutal subject of high school popularity, we learn how the Bitches party, dress, walk and talk, and read their instant message exchanges, reprising the author's use of IM-speak in her well-known book, ttyl. Is ultra-popularity worth its price? If the book's certain answer to that proverbial question is the predictable "no," the unpredictable twist in this race-fast tale is the odd nature of the price itself. The Bitches' secret is a word that rhymes with their name. Yes, it is witchery that sustains coolness and eliminates the ups and downs of ordinary teenage social existence. To stay popular the Bitches siphon off popularity from other girls by stealing innocuous small items from them, like lip balms or barrettes, and passing these things to a nutty religion teacher who offers them up as sacrifices to her collection of female idols, kept in a locked school storeroom. What a relief to learn that high school popularity is the whipped-up illusion we all suspected. If this knowledge does not relieve the pain of being an outcast after Jane quits the group, at least it shows her that the gifts of true friendshiplike the boy who, without asking, brings her Krispy Kreme donuts when she is down,can be the real and sustaining magic in high school life. 2005, Amulet Books, Ages 13 up.
Jane is a freshman at Crestview High and views with awe and drooling jealousy "the Bitches," the three most popular girls at school. The school grapevine suggests the Bitches' popularity has a supernatural origin, but Jane is gleeful when she is asked to complete the Bitch coven, despite hints about demonic cats and selling her soul. Once initiated, Jane has second thoughts about the cruelty she must inflict to remain a Bitch, and in a Lord of the Flies-like denouement, shields an innocent victim at the expense of her place in the society. Myracle, author of TTYL (Amulet/Harry N. Abrams, 2004/VOYA June 2004), certainly understands the elements that make a teen book popular with girls, if not how to synthesize them gracefully. Replete with wistful dreams of one-upmanship, witchcraft, urban legend, and life on the wild side, this book will fly off library shelves and become the talk of the hallways. Its audience will not mind that the plot is a mTlange of clichTs, that the characters are stock, and that the pacing lacks the true ominous build that the author might have developed. Jane's worries about her absent father do not mesh into the story, and while Myracle illustrates consequences, she never fully explains the clique's horrific origins. The book tries to be both creepy and insightful, but ends up being trite and pieced together. Nevertheless-purchase it. It is not great literature, but it will be greatly popular. VOYA CODES: 2Q 5P J S (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q; Every YA (who reads) was dying to read it yesterday; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2005, Amulet Books/Harry N. Abrams, 208p., Ages 12to 18.
Gr 9 Up-When plain Jane is asked to be one of her high school's ultra-elite clique, "the Bitches," she can't believe it. She's never been remotely popular. The freshman goes through a secret initiation, and all she needs to do is steal something each week from a classmate and leave the object in the office of Lurlene Lear, the early religion teacher who, unbeknownst to Jane, is the controlling force behind the group. During the week in question, the person to whom the object belonged wanes in popularity, while adoration for the Bitch grows. At first, Jane's conscience bothers her, but finding ways to justify her actions becomes much easier as she becomes unbelievably popular. Later, when the Bitches gang up on an innocent girl, Camilla, and threaten to harm her, Jane's conscience revives. She is outraged and calls a halt to their behavior. She expects temporary displeasure from the other Bitches, but doesn't expect them to turn on her. When no one likes Jane, she becomes truly aware of the price she paid for her short-lived popularity. In the end, her best boy friend comes around and she can, at least, count on his loyal friendship. There are magical elements in this novel, and plenty of creepy touches. Both take away from the book's realism, but add deliciously to its suspense. The language and situations are provocative, but teens will gobble the story up.-Catherine Ensley, Latah County Free Library District, Moscow, ID Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Where does high school popularity come from? In cutthroat Crestview Academy, it comes from black magic. Like everyone at Crestview, dorky Janie and Alicia want to be liked by the Bitches, the three popular girls who rule the school. Janie can scarcely believe it when Mary Bryan, Keisha and Bitsy invite her into their clique. Every year, apparently, the Bitches choose a desperate, nerdy girl and make her over into a queen. The cost? Not so high: Janie needs to steal something inexpensive from another student and leave it on the desk of creepy teacher Lurl the Pearl. Isn't it a coincidence that the student Janie steals from-best friend Alicia-becomes immediately unpopular and klutzy? Alas, Janie discovers her wondrous new popularity is rooted in evil powers. Though Keisha and Mary Bryan cause minimal harm, Bitsy is not so magnanimous. If only Janie could keep her popularity and be a good person, too. No feel-good ending here: Myracle's self-involved, callous, and cruel high-schoolers are the worst of the breed. Darkly comic, well realized and upsetting. (Fiction. YA)First printing of 75,000; $100,000 ad/promo; author tour