Thanks so much for visiting HipWriterMama, my blog about children's books, authors and readergirlz!

It's time for a change. I've decided to focus my attention on my writing blog, www.vivianleemahoney.com. Hope to see you there!


Monday, March 22, 2010

Shining the Light on POISON IVY by Amy Goldman Koss and a Book Giveaway

I've decided to start a new feature on my blog called SHINING THE LIGHT ON..., where authors shed insight into their books. It's my hope you'll find new books to read, authors to admire and much needed writing inspiration. I'd love your feedback, so please feel free to comment!

Since today is the first day of SHINING THE LIGHT ON..., I've decided to host a book giveaway based on the theme of today's featured book and author. But you'll have to wait a bit...

If you follow me on twitter or facebook, you've probably noticed my observations on elementary school cliques. As a mother, I find cliques bothersome, particularly since I hate how it affects my children. I'm selfish that way.

Cliques creep in early, at the tender age of 6 (at least in our public school). By the time children reach 10 or 11, they've got this clique thing down pat. Even though many cliques are harmless, formed mostly of kids with common interests, it's still hard for an "outsider" to get a foot in the door. If a clique happens to be controlled by a mother or two, the chance of getting invited in is wiped out. And what if one of the cliques ends up a little power hungry, dabbling in a little bullying here are there? And what if the adults, who are supposed to protect the young, look the other way or don't see the signs? It's no wonder our kids have difficulty navigating the social scene, whether they're in a clique or not, one of the bullied, a bully, or a bystander.

A couple years ago, I discovered the book POISON IVY by Amy Goldman Koss. Here's a little bit about POISON IVY:
When three popular girls go on trial in Government class for their ruthless bullying of a girl named Ivy, it seems the misfit will finally get her revenge. Eight first-person narrators give different versions of the event: Ivy-this victim doesn't want revenge, she just wants to be left alone; Ann-she's the beautiful, but infamously cruel, leader of the bullies; Marco-he may be the only person involved who has any morals, but he's also the target of Ann's persuasive affections; Daria-Ivy's painfully shy lawyer doesn't stand a chance; Bryce-the goofy court reporter knows all the real dirt, even if he doesn't care; Cameron-he sleeps through the proceedings but wake up just in time to make a difference; Wayne-a true devotee of the legal process, too bad he's on the sidelines; and Faith-as the only witness for the prosecution, it all comes down to her. But where do her loyalties lie?
Amy was kind enough to share some insight into writing about the tween/teen relationships in POISON IVY. She's an expert on her observations on the tween/teen relationships--check out her many books! Without further ado, please welcome Amy!

Amy Goldman Koss: Friendships can be dicey at any age. My ancient aunt Jenny detested her batty roommate in the rest home. Part of that was probably her paranoid dementia, but the rest…?

What percentage of college roommates end up enemies? And how about all those till-death-do-us-part marriages ending in bitter animosity? Workplace conflicts, court cases, family feuds… racial hatreds, Gang wars, and war/wars.

That’s one of the things we humans do best: fight.

And when we’re forced to be together, day after week after month, in stultifying boredom with zero freedom… like in prison, or, say middle school, the nightmarish possibilities for interpersonal torment are limitless.

There’s no escape, no scaling the slippery sides of the cauldron. Prisoners and students are left to seethe and bubble in a crowded stew of hormones, frustration, anger, powerlessness, and human nature. The only difference between the prisoners and the students is that, theoretically the prisoners, brought this fate upon themselves and are being punished.

I’ve been a lot of ages now, and seen all kinds of gore and misery but I do truly believe the hardest and weirdest time of life are those beastly years between fifth and tenth grade. So, those are the people I write to, for and about… people simmering in the stew. I want to help them pass the time as they simmer. I want to make them laugh. I want to remind them that they are not alone.

Some people object to my novel Poison Ivy because it doesn’t have a hopeful, redemptive, optimistic, ending. I even had to change publishers mid-contract because the first one wanted it to end happily. Actually, I would have like to twist the world in such a way that life was fair and justice prevailed, but I’m sure it would have read as a lie.

That story, with those characters had to play out the way it did. No other conclusion would have made sense.

It is not my job to lie to my readers. They get enough of that elsewhere in their lives. And I hope the humor in my books balances the grim parts, just like laughter gets us through the rough patches in real life.
Amy's next book, THE NOT-SO-GREAT DEPRESSION, will be released in May 2010.

Thank you, Amy, for your wise insight and for creating books that help teens.

If you know anyone who is being bullied, please check out BullyBust, a website dedicated to help students stand up to bullying. Also, here's a link to an old post on books for Cliques, Friendships and Self-Esteem. I hope these resources will be helpful.

On a brighter note, to celebrate the start of SHINING THE LIGHT ON... and to honor Amy for being my first guest, I'm giving away a special book gift pack that I hope will help someone. This book gift pack will include:
If you'd like to be considered for this book gift pack, leave a comment about a childhood experience with cliques or bullies. Deadline will be next Wednesday, March 31st. And I'm really sorry about this...since I'm paying for shipping myself, only U.S. entries will be considered. Thanks for your understanding. I'll announce the winner on April 1st--no joke!

The floor is yours.


Calliope said...

Oh, what a brave topic! And working in a trial in class. The book sounds really good.

I'd love this gift pack since I'm sure my daughter would find all these books helpful. She's having the hardest time fitting in and even finding one good friend. Loyalty and friendships of the kind I remember from my childhood are hard to find with all this technology and kids schedules.

Thank you!

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

what a great idea! I'm always looking for new books to read.

I'm also curious about the author's experience of switching mid-contract. that must have been a difficult experience!

Patty P said...

There is nothing more compelling to me than girl cliques. I'm baffled by them and at the same time intrigued. I just don't get the power struggle to be mean, or the passivity to take it. But it's everywhere; on the elementary school playground and during bunko night.
Our public elementary school district teaches a program called "The Responsive Classroom" which emphasizes a community in the classroom and its purpose is to combat all of the above. For the most part, it works reasonably well. My daughter is 11 and hasn't experienced mean girls yet. The girls at her grade level are all pretty respectful most of the time (many demographics/socio-economic backgrounds included, I might add).

Fantastic subject and the book sounds wonderful! Need to read it.

Faith Pray said...

I'm so glad this topic isn't being shied away from. There will always be those kids who just don't fit in, and the kids (and grownups, heck, even teachers) who tend towards cliquishness and bullying.

As an awkward and creative middle school-er I did not fit in and I was miserable.
In retrospect I am the winner. I love my life today. Being bullied and shunned made me independent, helped me develop my own individualism, discover my talents and run with them.
Now I'm an artist and a writer and I get look back on the kids who mocked me daily, who refused to speak to me for months, who called me "milktruck" and other delightful sobriquets,
and transform them on paper. They are fuel for my fiction.

Suzanne Casamento said...

Vivian and Amy, I love that you're exploring this topic. I was kicked out of my clique in 8th grade and it depleted my self esteem. It's such a crucial time. We're already so unsure of ourselves - not pretty enough, not funny enough, not sporty enough, not thin enough. And then for girlfriends to dump you and humiliate you and purposely hurt you - it's mindblowingly devastating.

I wrote a story about it for Seventeen years ago. I'll scan a copy and send it to you via Facebook. At least there was some solace in sharing my story with other girls and letting them know that sooner or later, they'd be all right.

Keep talking about it!

amy goldman koss said...

Thanks! Great to read these comments!
But re. changing publishers mid-contract: I don't recommend it. But in this case it had to be done!
All best,

Brimful Curiosities said...

I'm scared silly thinking about that period of time when my daughter reaches the tween/teen years. My own life was pretty uneventful except that two years in a row someone decided to steal both my Junior and Senior yearbooks in high school. Harsh, considering I was an editor both those years and can never replace the books full of written notes from my classmates.

. said...

Wow, a childhood experience with cliques or bullies - that's a hard topic to discuss. I think 5th grade was the hardest year for me. One day I got permission to get a drink of water from the water fountain across the courtyard. Several classmates ran to the water fountain with me. When we got back to the room the teacher said she didn't give anyone permission to get a drink. She said she was going to paddle everyone who went to the fountain. She would paddle lighter for the first ones to admit their guilt and harder as time passed. I didn't go up because I knew I had permission to get a drink. This group of girls, who was always picking on me, told the teacher I got a drink too even though they knew I had gotten permission. They goaded me until it became apparent to me that getting paddled was going to be easier and less painful than putting up with their jabs, shoves and taunts. After I got paddled, they laughed and said I was dumb. They reminded me of that incident the rest of the school year too.

Linda Kish said...

My son was always left out of groups because of his ADHD and OCD until he found a group of RPG "players" in high school. Since they were all outcasts they fit together well.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Clariline said...

Please enter me in the giveaway. I need more book like this on my library shelf (I am a school librarian). Bullying is a problem everywhere and it makes me very sad and frustrated as a librarian, when I observe this. Some teachers work very hard to establish a healthy classroom atmosphere, while other just leave it up to the kids to work out for themselves. Very sad.

Bookie said...

I was never part of the cool clique in school even though at the time I wished that I was.

Bullying is something that I see my younger brother have to deal with. It's very frustrating that kids can't just get along.

Jodi said...

My daughter never fit in in high school but didn't get much grief simply because I think people knew she didn't really care about fitting in. She's was different, she was OK with that and no one bugged her simply because they knew they couldn't get a rise from her. Now my younger daughter CARES. She fits in better than her older sister did yet she gets teased more--simply because they know it bothers her. Weird, huh?