The Clique, by Lisi Harrison, is a middle grade novel that was published in 2004. The novel is extremely well written and the characters are very well developed. But, while Lisi Harrison is an amazing author The Clique and its fifteen sequels don’t send the best messages to teenage girls. Many adults actually feel that the series should be banned from middle school libraries. Let’s discuss why.
The novel begins when the protagonist, Massie Block, a wealthy twelve-year-old girl, finds out that her father’s old friend and his family are moving into her family’s guest house. She becomes devastated when her mother forces her to include the new family’s poor daughter, Claire Lyons, in her friendship circle. Massie immediately dismisses Claire before even trying to get to know her, and her and her friends actually bully Claire. They call her names, humiliate her in class, and even dump food such as salt and cold soup on her head. Massie judges Claire based on her appearance. She won’t accept Claire because she wears overalls and Keds instead of designer clothing. This makes readers, who are mostly elementary and middle school girls, think that it’s okay to judge someone based on their appearance rather than their personality.
Now this would all be okay if the characters were to redeem themselves at the end of the story. No person is a saint and it would have been amazing for Lisi Harrison to show that people can make huge mistakes—everyone does; we are all human—but still be good people. However, this doesn’t happen. Massie and her friends still don’t accept Claire into their group at the end of the novel. Massie is seen as being nice to Claire for a few minutes at the end of the first book, but she goes back to being a bully at the beginning of the second one.
The only one who ends up paying for her mistakes in the first book is Claire. After taking enough of The Pretty Committee’s (what Massie and her posse of girls call themselves) abuse, she decides to get revenge by bullying them back. What kind of message is that sending? That if someone hurts you, it’s okay to hurt them back? And while Claire did pay for what she did in the end, she didn’t seem to feel guilty about her actions. She only appeared upset about the reaction she got afterwards when Massie’s posse (who had joined Claire after she bullied them online under Massie’s name) all left her. The story makes readers empathize with Claire—how can we not after the way she’s been treated?—but morally, who we really should be feeling for is the three girls she hurt. Claire body-shammed and humiliated them, and the story excused her actions because she was treated poorly by them in the past.
The bottom line is that none of the girls in these novels are nice people. With Massie being the main protagonist, the book almost encourages cruel behavior in teenage girls. We are supposed to empathize with Massie and look up to her. Many middle school girls have been seen trying to replicate Massie’s behavior because they thought her character was interesting in the novel, and they want to be just like her. Many young girls have gotten bullied because of the bad influence that these books have had on their classmates. And while the books are realistic—many girls are mean in middle school—they are encouraging that behavior because Massie and her friends never pay for their mistakes. These novels tell readers that you can get away with poor behavior as long as you are pretty, popular, and rich. And because Claire was none of those things, she had to pay the price. The Clique stories almost glorify bullying in a way, as Massie ends up being a role model for tween and teen girls. But she isn’t a good one. And that’s where the problem lies.