Genre Kryptonite: High School Investigations

GENRE KRYPTONITE is a regular feature about genres we have an inexplicable weak spot for. Check out previous entries here.

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Back in high school, I was a band geek. I was also on the speech team, took honors classes, edited the newspaper, and participated in a mock government program. I was a huge nerd, and I was happy that way.

I had a small group of loyal friends — all nerds to about the same degree that I was. We didn’t get bullied very often. We didn’t cause trouble. We didn’t drink. We didn’t do drugs. We weren’t unpopular exactly, but we weren’t among the cool kids either (I imagine many of you fellow Book Riot readers can relate). We just formed a safe cocoon around each other and didn’t let anyone who might mess that up get close enough to do any damage.

After I graduated and headed to college, expanded my horizons a little bit, I realized what a very particular, very sheltered high school experience I had. It also made me curious, addicted even, to reading nonfiction about what life is like in high school in order to try and understand some of the horror stories friends tell about what it was like for them. Here are three book suggestions for investigating high school, two that I’ve enjoyed and one that I’m looking forward to reading.

Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both by Laura Sessions Stepp

Laura Sessions Stepp’s has made a name for herself writing about youth (particularly female youth) culture. In Unhooked, she takes a stab and explaining how a culture of casual sex has replaced dating among a generation of young women (high school and college) and what the long-term impacts might be, both for those who participate and those who don’t. I think all women, regardless of age, can find something to relate to in the book.

The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Culture, and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School by Alexandra Robbins

The main premise of Alexandra Robbins’ The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth — that kids who are on the fringe in high school can thrive in the real world — isn’t especially novel. But Robbins, already familiar with writing about the challenges of being young from two previous books (The Overachievers and Pledged), digs deep into the lives of the high school outsiders she profiles and helps show that even people who seem alone can find the people they belong with… before or after graduation. This one was voted Best Nonfiction Book in the 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards, so I’m not just a crazy person for liking it.

Another Planet: A Year in the Life of a Suburban High School by Elinor Burkett

And finally, the book on my to-be-read pile that I haven’t dug into yet. Like Stepp and Robbins, Elinor Burkett takes on high school in Another Planet by going behind-the-scenes for a year at a suburban high school in Minneapolis, Minnesota. But unlike the previous two books mentioned in this post, Burkett takes a broader look, talking with parents, teachers, and students to get a picture of the real problems in our schools. Although the book is from 2002, I expect there are still some relevant details and arguments to be made, and I’m excited to read it.

Photo Credit: crazytales562 via Flickr

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Kim Ukura is a newspaper editor and blogs about literary fiction and non fiction at Sophisticated Dorkiness. Follow her on Twitter: @kimthedork

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