Sunday, April 24, 2011

Trauma Queen by Barbara Dee - Guest Post

Trauma Queen
Trauma Queen
Barbara Dee
Simon and Schuster
April 2011

I'll be reviewing Trauma Queen later today here on the The Brain Lair.  Trauma Queen is a great story about a middle school girl who just wants to fit in. One of the things keeping Marigold from fitting in is her mother, which I'll talk about in my review.  This book really spoke to me about my relationship with my daughter and how she might feel about us being in the same school and also how my actions affect her.  Very powerful for me.  But, the other thing Trauma Queen deals with is friendship among middle school girls.  Middle school can be very challenging for tween girls, I know this as a teacher and a single mother.  There were times I really wanted to rip some kid's head off for messing with my daughter and other times I wanted to rip mine off for having to live with my child!

Read on as Barbara Dee discusses one of her real-life tween friendship experiences:

When you’re twelve, sometimes friendships end, and you don’t even know it.

When my best friends dumped me, it didn’t happen all at once. The three girls I went bicycling with every afternoon started hanging out with a new girl I’ll call Monica. This Monica seemed older than the rest of us: she had a shaggy haircut and wore tons of mascara (even to school) and talked about BOYS all the time in a voice I could barely hear. Honestly, I thought she was boring.

And little by little I realized that my best friends weren’t around much anymore. They never said, Sorry, Barbara, we’re hanging with Monica instead of you. But it was pretty obvious. I’d hear snatches of conversations referring to parties I hadn’t been invited to. My phone calls stopped getting returned. And soon I began to notice changes in my friends: shaggy haircuts. Mascara at school. Muffled voices I could barely hear. And when I could hear, the topic was BOYS.

Boring, I thought. Honestly.

Then one day one of my best friends announced she had a new name: Happy. You weren’t supposed to call her by her normal name anymore, just by the stupid nickname. And guess who’d given her the stupid nickname? Monica.

“Well, I’m not calling you that,” I informed my friend. “It’s stupid. And it makes you sound like one of the Seven Dwarves.”
photo credit Randy Matusow

Right then she didn’t look like a Happy. “You know what, Barbara?” she said. “Monica doesn’t like you.”

“So what? Who cares about Monica?”

“I do,” she replied. “She’s my best friend now, okay? So it really doesn’t matter what you think!”

It didn’t? I was shocked. Looking back, I probably shouldn’t have been.

Why does this sort of thing happen to tween girls? Why does a girl who was once comfortably part of a group get kicked out? You can blame the Monicas of the world—and certainly, a powerful girl choosing a socially weaker girl to ostracize is a very common form of tween bullying. But what makes the weaker girl vulnerable? How did Monica—in a few short months—get to be so powerful? And why did she choose me to ostracize? Was it really as random as it felt?

Maybe not. Maybe it was because I’d challenged her authority—after all, I refused to wear mascara, and get the haircut, and to use the stupid nickname. Maybe it was because I was a very young twelve—tweens have no tolerance for immaturity. Whatever the reason, Monica expelled me from my group with an almost military precision—and none of my (former) best friends came to my rescue, or apparently even tried.

The whole Monica incident has always really bothered me.

But I guess one of the perks of being an author is you get to change history. So in my new book, TRAUMA QUEEN, the main character, Marigold, finds herself in a brand new middle school where this type of ostracism is taking place. Because Marigold’s performance artist mom is always making a spectacle of herself, Marigold’s one goal is to keep a low profile. But as she sees that one of her classmates is being unfairly ostracized, Marigold confronts the bully. And (spoiler alert!) she forms a new group in the end—one that includes not just the misfits of the school, and the bully’s victim, but also a really cute boy.

After all, she’s thirteen.

Stay tuned for my REVIEW and A GIVEAWAY.  And all you middle school librarians - put this book in your library, better yet, put it in the hands of some of your middle school girls. You won't regret it.


  1. Wow, this is a such a powerful post for a former tween girl! Wow, I don't remember being left out or leaving people out but for some reason this story really hit home for me. Thanks so much for the guest post!

  2. I remember 13 as very "fish out of water" year in my life. Wish I'd had a book like this to relate to. I wouldn't have felt so alone.


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