The Rites and Wrongs of Janice Wills by Joanna Pearson

Comes out: July 1, 2011

Pages: 224

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books

Format: ARC

Source: Kristi (The Story Siren)

Age Group: Young Adult

 

For anyone who's ever survived a rite of passage or performed a mating dance at Prom . . .The Japanese hold a Mogi ceremony for young women coming of age. Latina teenagers get quinceaneras. And Janice Wills of Melva, NC ... has to compete in the Miss Livermush pageant.Janice loves anthropology--the study of human cultures--and her observations help her identify useful rules in the chaotic world of high school. For instance: Dancing is an effective mating ritual--but only if you're good at it; Hot Theatre Guys will never speak to Unremarkable Smart Girls like Janice and her best friend, Margo; and a Beautiful Rich Girl will always win Melva's annual Miss Livermush pageant.But when a Hot Theatre Guy named Jimmy Denton takes an interest in Janice, all her scientific certainties explode. For the first time, she has to be part of the culture that she's always observed; and all the charts in the world can't prove how tough--and how sweet--real participation and a real romance can be.Funny, biting, and full of wisdom, this marks the debut of a writer to watch.

Some of the best books are the ones where quirky girls talk about their unique perspective on life. This one – fortunately – is one of those books. Janice Wills is an self-described anthropologist who views the world in a slightly negative, critical light. Her point of view reminded me of Dash’s from Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares. While at some points in the book, she wasn’t the most likeable heroine, she did consider herself brutally honest.The entertainment of this book was Janice’s notes scattered throughout it. She had anthropology observations at the heading of every chapter and sometimes in between. I am curious to see whether her article got published, but that question was never answered. I was expecting a reply letter or something, but it was enough just reading her essays to get me hooked.I really enjoyed her stereotyping. While I don’t think that she should have tried to fit everybody into the same mold of their “clique” or group, I did enjoy her observations on each separate group. For example,  the Goths were a group. Beautiful Rich Girls, Dumb Pretties, etc,.And, for once, the crush that she had on a guy actually fizzled. For once, a guy was actually revealed to be a jerk and they were not immediately taken back. That made me happy, because although there was a fairytale ending, everything is not as Janice expects it to be.Somewhere in the middle of the book, I found myself exclaiming “Whoah, was that the climax of the book?” because the party scene was so intense and all these conflicts erupted. I hung on eagerly to every word that I read.And I really enjoyed the pageant. It reminded me very much of the book The Cupcake Queen by Heather Hepler. I liked how they actually focused very much on academics. Many other books say that the academics were “overlooked”.The ending left me happy. It was a shorter book, but it was incredibly enjoyable. I loved descriptions of the families and their traditions throughout the book. I particularly liked the discussion between Paul and Janice about embracing/rejecting certain traits and the impact that it has on social standing and confidence.This book is at some times very textbook and scientific. Janice prides herself on backing everything up with accurate facts, and being the calculated wry observer sulking in the background. I enjoyed the comparisons to other civilizations and the in-depth analysis of social status and parties and such.It’s very hard for authors to be able to mix the perfect amount of science and story into a book to create a “geeky” character and his/her story. Joanna Pearson seems to have nailed it completely.This reminds me of an older version of some of the middle grade titles that I used to read, the geeky girl coming into her own. Thoroughly satisfying, this is an easy, quick, and fun read. Recommended for anybody who loves: Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging; The Cupcake Queen; Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares; The Fashion Disaster That Changed My Life; etc,.Book club questions to come later.