Woo-hoo! Deborah tackles her first non-fiction read since…since…well, since university I guess. I don’t generally read non-fiction, at least in book form. Newspapers, magazines, and other short dosages of reality are okay, but for some reason I just don’t read as much non-fic as I feel an intelligent person should. Conclusions about my intelligence aside, this is because, in my humble opinion, non-fiction books are categorically boring. Yet, if The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth taught me anything, it’s that our categorizations can sometimes be wrong.
Geeks follows a year in the life of seven social outcasts, highs and lows carefully documented by journalist Alexandra Robbins. Because they exist on the margins of the high school social scene, Robbins terms these individuals the “cafeteria fringe”. The “fringe” cast of this book include Danielle (The Loner), Whitney (The Popular Bitch), Eli (The Nerd), Joy (The New Girl), “Blue” (The Gamer), Regan (The Weird Girl) and Noah (The Band Geek). At first glance, each of these individuals seems to fit neatly into an arbitrary category, but by following their choices and struggles throughout a school year, we soon learn of all the ways these students are really standouts. In short, Robbins presents seven living examples of “quirk theory”, which posits that those traits that make kids seems like “outsiders” in high school are the very traits that will help them thrive in the “real world”. What makes many kids “different” in the weirdly homogenous high school landscape is what adults and future employers will value them for: things like creativity, an ability to think outside the box, individuality, and nonconformity. It’s a really heartening, positive message, and one we should be sending our kids.
I enjoyed Geeks mainly because of the addition of the “main characters”. Between each of their chapters, which read like stories, there is an explanation that includes social-psychological research and further real life examples. Robbins addresses questions about what popularity really is, how cliques are started and maintained, why high school generally sucks, and what we as adults should be doing about all of it. This is psychology that’s entertaining, readable, and most of all, relevant. For everyone who works in a high school, or plans to in the future, it’s essential reading.