Monday, June 7, 2010

from the annals of YA clichees

INTERN has been avoiding her computer as if it were a dreadful viper and instead been taking lots of 20-mile walks in the hills, where she is ironically much more likely to encounter an actual viper. This weekend, INTERN and Techie Boyfriend went to visit Techie Boyfriend's family, and INTERN got to hang out with his 16 year old sister, who is an eleventh grader at a bonafide American Highschool.

Now, you need to understand that for INTERN, American highschools are somewhat mythical places she's only ever apprehended through movies like Clueless and the dozens upon dozens of YA manuscripts she's read that take place in their locker-bejewelled halls. INTERN herself went to a Canadian highschool, which is a whole different animal. INTERN's highschool did not, for example, have a cheerleading team, or a stadium, or even the omnipresent Lockers that nerds at American Highschools are routinely stuffed into. INTERN's highschool did not have a Prom (the significance of which mystifies INTERN to this day) and one did not need a Hall Pass (wtf?) in order to relieve oneself in the bathroom. There were no "freshmen" and "seniors," just grade nines and grade twelves, and grade twelve was just grade twelve, not an insanely overburdened Senior Year on which the fate of the universe hung.

So you can imagine INTERN's fascination with the very different (and shockingly consistent) version of Highschool she's encountered in YA novels and manuscripts. If she is to believe what she reads again and again and again, highschool life in the US is always EXACTLY and UNDEVIATINGLY like this:

"Cherryville High is ruled by a ruthless posse of popular and pretty (but mean and anorexic!) cheerleaders named the Blossom Squad whose leader (more like a sultan! or a supreme court judge!) is a frigid ice queen named Stacey (who gets what's coming to her sometime in the third act when it is revealed that she has Issues!).

The Blossom Squad dates the Football Team (known as the Cherryville Stems!), which is composed of sweaty, muscular teenage boys who like to throw Raging House Parties when their parents are out of town (house parties at which their unfortunate tendencies towards date rape and alcoholism tend to come out) and who occasionally succumb (briefly!) to the romantic charms of a non-Blossom Squad female, dump her by leaving a nasty surprise in her Locker (how did he get into her locker???), then take her back at the last minute (usually in the final moments of Prom).

If you're not in the Blossom Squad or the Stems, you are by default a Pit (i.e. a cherry pit, but also a Misfit! with Misfit Issuuuuuuues!) You have a best friend (who is gay! or of the opposite sex! or nerdy about biochem to the point that she practically qualifies for a guide dog to help her navigate the world outside the science lab! but who ultimately fails to understand you in at least one Key Respect!) If you are a Pit, you might try to lay low, but there will eventually be something (ummmm....supernatural power? illicit romance w/Stem?) that will put you directly in Stacey's (like, the frigging SULTAN of the Blossom Squad's) crosshairs.

Whatever happens, it all gets wrapped up at Prom, which is more important than ANYTHING and at which there is generally some kind of massive showdown between Blossoms, Stems, Pits, and assorted bit characters like Hummer limo drivers and parents."

Luckily, hanging out with Techie Boyfriend's little sister for a few hours was enough to reassure INTERN that American Highschools are not, in fact, all exactly like that. Some notes from their conversation:

-nobody gives a crap about Cheerleaders and Jocks, not even cheerleaders and jocks.
-manga = cool
-i can haz cheezburger = hilarious.
-no mention of Prom. (why no mention of Prom? is Techie Boyfriend's little sister INSANE or something?) Most American Highschools don't even have one of those Olympic Countdown Clock thingies like Vancouver had.
-novels about various wars you have to read for English class = boring
-online comics = hilarious
-being a furry = totally valid life choice
-nerdy furry cheerleaders, peaceful rastafarian football players....A-OK.
-short attention span = yes

Naturally, this is only one conversation and not enough to *completely* dismantle the portrait of American Highschools INTERN has been reading about for so long. What's going on with this Cheerleader/Jock thing, anyway? Why do so many people write about that stuff? And are all these clichees real somewhere, or is it time for a massive collective update? Present and former American Highschool attendees, please advise.


  1. I cannot help you. I went to a nerd high school where NONE OF US was cool, and I knew over a dozen people with perfect math SAT scores. I don't think we had sports. We did have prom.

  2. I think all that stuff was true 30+ years ago, when I was in high school. Some writers are living in the past. ;-)

  3. There are cliques, but for the most part I'd have to agree with the little sister. But, wtf is a furry? I could make a guess, but I'd much rather just hear/see it.

    Also, I've never understood the huge popularity of the Cheerleader/Jock thing, though we did have quite a bit of that where I was from. *shrug* Who knows?

  4. Girls in Oregon HS from 1996-2008

    - cheerleaders and jocks are OK because of the GAMES which is all about spending hours running around with friends, eating crap, yelling required
    - school formals (PROM) all about the dress and hair, dates not required
    - nerds are cool, rednecks are good for parties, emo's and goths = lame but nice
    - girls drive muscle cars or POS
    - texting required
    - reading = glamor magazines & movies

  5. For the most part, the whole cheerleader/jock thing is nowhere near as insane in real life as it is in books, but sometimes it is. See: The Texas Cheerleader Scandal (
    At my school, at least, cheerleaders and jocks were popular and enjoyed some decent benefits, but not a lot, as neither or cheerleaders nor our sports teams were that good. Rather, our theatre department, which was freakishly amazing, got a lot of perks (both actors and tech). Of course, we were putting on professional quality shows. Most schools aren't able to do this, so theatre people get resigned to the geek/nerd bin.

  6. Maybe we grew up in a time where there became more than one way to be "popular"? Just about anything you can think of has a social group online, and kids really sometimes just survive on their internet popularity. Or at least find some sort of social acceptance that doesn't rely on their classmates.

    I always hated the cliches, our homecoming queen was in band, and all the "popular" guys thought art class was cool. Also hate how 26 year olds play high school kids (Can't Hardly Wait?) in movies, since it takes away how awkward and unsure most kids really are.

    David Sedaris has a great bit about how he overhears some kids from another school talking about their school's popular group, and it rocks his world because before then he just assumed that everyone throughout the city was as concerned with his school's Cheerleaders and Jocks as he was. Maybe the biggest common thread is our collective shortsightedness at the time :)

  7. As a high school student I would say the cheerleader thing needs to be revised. At my school the most popular people are still the jocks, but cheerleaders and people on the dance team are not as popular. And it all depends on what sport you play. Playing golf or chess does not make you popular. Playing basketball or lacrosse does.

    There is no group of mean girls running the school. It's a big group of guy and girl jocks but they don't really run the school, everyone knows who they are and they may do the most exciting stuff (in their opinions) but no one really listens to them or fears them.

    I go to a private high school so my views might be a little different since it's usually public high schools shown in movies/YA. But I do agree that there are no nerds being pushed into lockers and prom is not the be all, end all. But manga isn't seen as cool and neither is being really smart (even though our school claims to be for those who are 'academically gifted', but everyone tries to hide it).

    All in all, I say it's time for a massive collective update.

  8. I teach at a small private junior high/high school, and though we don't have a cheerleading team, each year there is definitely a Blossom Squad and Sultan (Sultana?) that rule the eighth and ninth grade (with much hair-tossing and mean-girl Facebooking). At our school, the popularity court disperses by grade 10 or 11 in most classes, although I'd still say that the athletes--male and female--get the most attention and privilege all six years.

  9. Heh. In my Real American High School, the "Band Geeks" were the total rulers of campus. We comprised the smartest, funniest, best-dressed, most-sought-after, most-talented people in the school. We won trophies, hung out in huge cliques, and were able to disappear into the forbidden zone of "The Band Room" at will. Oh, and we were led by our uber-awesome band-director who looked like he ran the Mafia, and had he been so inclined could probably have used the Band to invade the neighboring high school, because we were all just that devoted.

    The cheerleaders were....well...they were enthusiastic anyway. And they used to beg us to play songs for them during foot-ball games, which for some reason I find amusing.

    The football team was the laughingstock of the school. Even the PLAYERS laughed at themselves (some of them, anyway). Our team was just that bad.

    Anyway, guess I'm trying to say, I pretty much agree with Techie Boyfriend's Sister. Except maybe for the part about Furries.


  10. I have no idea what you are talking about.

    At my school classes were called Elements, Figures, Grammar, Syntax, Poetry, Rheotric, etc. - an archaic hangover from the days when the school was founded but ultimately a sensible system. (I suppose today you could bring the names up to date and call them Atari, Playstation, Xbox, Wii, or some such.)

    As for Proms, they take place once a year in the Royal Albert Hall, no?

  11. Graduated from high school last year. Granted, it was a private hippie school and sounds way more like your Canadian one than the stereotypical American, but the biggest difference I've seen between real life and YA books is: the popular kids are not popular because they're hot and mean. They're popular because they're nice, smart, involved in activities, and, most importantly, hilarious. There is no substitute in high school for being funny.

  12. lol! I know exactly what you mean, growing up in Barbados (Caribbean island) and on the British system. Beverley Hills 90210 and Boston Public were "the American High School" for me.

    PS, I never got prom either. :S

  13. This must be why I can't stand modern YA novels. I had ten kids who went to 5 different high schools in 3 different states, not one of which fit the cliche as reported in YA novels. No wonder Twilight was such a it. It had vampires in the school cafeteria instead of jocks & cheerleaders. Such a relief! Please please please give us a break from the cliched high schools we see in books & movies!

  14. I am not a big reader of YA for exactly this reason. There may be a high school somewhere in the country ruled by anorexic queen-bee bimbos and their meathead boyfriends, but I have yet to encounter it in real life. My high school, with 2,000 people, was too big to be dominated by a single clique -there were too many subgroups and just too many people. Everyone found their own circle.

    Admittedly, my hometown is heavily divided by financial opportunities (lots of oil tycoons and surgeons), but I never saw anything like the cliche high school I come across in nearly every YA book I try to pick up (and inevitably put back down).

    The cliche high school experience seems to be more a problem with the writing world than the real world. Have writers forgotten what high school was actually like? Rarely do I see a YA novel that captures a realistic high school experience.

  15. -after the cheerleaders and jocks were chosen in Middle School (the coaches for MS were the same for HS), no one really heard much about the jocks and cheerleaders. Unless they got caught doing drugs or got knocked up.

    -the "Popular Group" was popular because they were smart. Most were in the top 10%. They were also pretty freaking nice. Like, REALLY awesomely nice.

    -Prom was a reason to dress up and spend money on a limo. Nothing else. In fact, most of us preferred the informal Homecoming Dance right after the Homecoming Game, because it's easier to dance to Popular Music in jeans.

    -people were all cool with each other, for the most part. Even when one girl had a sex change between junior and senior year. It was awkward, but for teens (in Texas - big distinction there), most of us handled it pretty well.

    -the groups of friends that popped up were mainly because they were actually pretty close, and not part of any particular stereotype.

    I myself experienced all the basic "cliques" of high school, except it wasn't so much cliques as "groups of likeminded people." This usually happened freshman and sophomore year. But by graduation, we couldn't really see any distinguishing factors in our groups of friends.


    -facebook still reigns supreme - twitter is for adults, apparently
    -I hear myspace is still in use for the middle-schoolers
    -cell phones are important
    -teacher-determined boundaries of PDA are frequently tested
    -boyfriend drama is lame, and often discouraged by attending friends
    -get in the snack line fast, because jerks WILL cut, and you won't get there in time to eat
    -the snack line is cooler than the meal line, because they have nachos

  16. I am not ONLY a former American Highschool Attendee, I am ALSO an American Highschool Science Teacher (which is OK because Science Teachers don't make their students read and no one hates the Science, really, look at your YA novels. No one EVER talks about the Science Teacher (which is why NY YA novel HAS a science teacher in it! Oh, and no cheerleaders. Only a couple Goth kids who are smart, a handicapped student and a kid who does, in fact like to beat people up, but also is very intelligent). Oh, and they also Like Coffee (which, in fact, American High School Students DO)). (BTW -- I am also the father of TWO former American Highschool Atendees. One went to prom with her girlfriends and had a great time. The other went to ANOTHER high school's prom and had a crappy time. Neither of my Former American Highschool Attendees were jocks or cheerleaders, though both of my kids KNEW jocks and cheerleaders.). If you'd like any more information, please feel free to email me your questions. I would be HAPPY to try and set the record straight (PS -- American Highschools are NOT like "Glee", either. If you MUST take a media representation, try "The Breakfast Club" or possible read SPEAK. Both are all right at showing inside an American Highschool...

  17. Thanks god american highschools aren't really like that! I know mine wasn't.

  18. I think it's a holdover from the 70s and 80s...what you described sounds like my kids' high school, though we do still have a both a junior and senior prom (it's not a huge deal). Oh yeah, and Senior Year is still a Crazily Pivotal Point in One's Young Life, but our town is full of overachiever parents, so no surprise there.

  19. I'm with you Intern, basically my knowledge of american highschools consist of that learnt through Glee, clueless and saved by the bell shows. . .

    Still don't understand that whole freshman, sophomore things or hall monitors!?!!?

  20. I went to two Bona Fide American High Schools... the first was so big that nobody really cared what happened outside their own cliques (yes, we had cheerleaders, and I'm pretty sure they did crazy things like win Junior Nationals, but they didn't get any credit for it). My second high school was a small, intense, specialized (public) school where athletic ability didn't matter - intellectual ability was all that counted (I lost points for being completely hopeless at calculus, but I gained them back by editing papers for my hallmates). Literally, the smartest kids - the ones who won robotics competitions or discovered new stars or took Masters-level math classes - were the most popular ones. So neither school really fit with the stereotype.

    On the other hand, the American High School stereotype fits almost perfectly with my experience of middle school. SO glad that I'm long past that stage.

  21. My Irish secondary school experiences sounds a lot like INTERN'S Canadian experience. I am a little disappointed that high school is not more like Glee however. Do they even have Glee clubs?! My faith in cheesy tv has been shaken.

  22. The cliches started because one person was successful with them, so everyone else decided success meant using that pattern.

    Cheerleading is mainly important to A -- cheer moms who were either cheerleaders when it WAS a big deal and OMG, the kid's a LEGACY (<--- scary, scary ladies, lemmee tell ya) or B -- cheer moms never made the cut for whatever reason and are convinced that not being a cheerleader is what made their life so unbearable and now foist that belief onto their kids. (<--- also scary, but somewhat sad ladies).

    As for football jocks, at our high school, we had guys on the team who were 5'0" and about 100lbs (surprisingly fierce little guy, probably because his sports career was spent being chased by really big guys that could accidentally smoosh him) all the way up to the 300 lbs variety. Our QB was a stick with arms and a ponytail.

    Homecoming Queen and King consisted of an OMG, she's a LEGACY!!! (who was actually both nice and sane) and the Class Clown (who was both outcast and everyone's favorite person in the world. He was a paradox and probably responsible for the rip in space/time that settled over our school.)

    Prom was Meh. I came from the troublemaking class, so they told us we'd be having prom in the Taco Bell parking lot. We were disappointed when this didn't happen (apparently, upon realizing there are no doors on a parkinglot, the teachers panicked and found a nice hotel where they could lock people in ... because a couple hundred teenage boys and girls could never manage to find something else to do in a hotel full of rooms.. .yeah...) Skipped prom, went to After Prom casino night!!!

    i can haz cheezeburgur IS friggin' hilarious.

    (Does the mascot count as a furry cheerleader? I'm not sure any valid life choice should come with the smell of moldy fake fur and stale storage room.)

    Oh, and we also had a teacher who let us blow stiff up and burn books. He shot his supervisor in the leg with a homemade tennis ball canon (<--- total accident; we all said so...)and set off firecrackers in the ceiling. We started to suspect mild pyromania may have been involved when he let us play with bubbles and an Aim N'Flame... never did get that sub to come back to class.

    All in all it was a pretty normal high school experience. (If you ignore the fact that we ended up a Lifetime movie of the week.)

  23. In my high school, the cheerleaders and jocks did care about cheerleaders and jocks, but no one else did. Seems to me the people writing these books are having their memories mixed in with memories of the Sweet Valley High series.

  24. Personally, I think what's happening is that a lot of YA writers are in their early 20s or older, and high school was like the cliche for many of them. I'm 22, and when I was in high school 5 years ago (OH MY GOD AM I THAT OLD?!), it was almost exactly like the books/movies/cliches (middle school was too. Actually, middle school was worse).
    Not all of the popular girls were cheerleaders. But they tended to act mean/drink/had issues, and the misfits all sort of banded together in our loner corners (especially in Japanese class, 'cause this was before manga was cool <.<), etc. But my senior year, I noticed things starting to shift. The dorky kids weren't getting shoved around -- in fact, we'd seemed to notice that there were more of us than the "popular" kids. And then the "popular" kids noticed that some of that manga stuff was actually kind of cool, and started to hang out with/date the former misfits. The cliques we'd all stuck to until senior year started to break down.
    Then my brother went into high school the year after I graduated (so he just graduated last year). Since I trained him well, he was already pretty much 100% dork. Complete with suspenders, courderoy pants, and weird hats. But before freshman year was up, he had this huge group of friends, guys and girls from all degrees of the former "popular" scales (cheerleaders, anime kids, weird kids, potheads, bank geeks, gorgeous girls who did their hair every morning, girls who didn't care how they looked, guys on the football team...).
    Not saying that he didn't encounter any drama or struggles, but his high school experience was vaaastly different from mine. And when I visited school my freshman year of college to see old friends, I noticed it too - the dynamics all seemed to have shifted. Which is pretty cool, I think.
    But yeah, I think the reason the cliches remain is 'cause some of us, even though we only just graduated (5 YEARS ISN'T THAT LONG OK?! ... I still get carded. I look young!), are out of touch with how school is different now.
    And sorry, I just realized how long this comment is. <.<

  25. Awesome. I think my nephews would back you up on this.

  26. it's been 20 years since I graduated (someone hand me my cane please). My freshman year the football team only lost one game- the won 2nd place at state. This was a huge deal to the school. So, some teachers did give preferential treatment to them. However, they did not rule the school. There were no mean groups of girls you didn't dare to cross. And no group of dorks everyone tortured.

  27. I think it might also be a matter of perception. One person might see queen bees, another might shudder at all the male privilege... another might mistakenly think the marching band was anything but pathetic. I went to two American high schools and neither one had a ruling clique. I graduated in 98

  28. personally, i mourn the passing of John-Hughes-films-as-guidebooks-for-today's-youth. if kids today (and don't get me started on Kids Today) knew what was good for them, they'd be glued to their 17" TVs, endlessly watching "The Breakfast Club", "Sixteen Candles", "Pretty in Pink", "Some Kind of Wonderful"*, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", not to mention "Valley Girl", "St. Elmo's Fire", "Fast Times At Ridgemont High", "Revenge of the Nerds", "Heathers"... and they need to be watching then all on VHS tapes (if not Beta!) and not on these fancy, shiny DVDs.

    sadly, most cliches die slow deaths, especially when they're so entrenched in the popular psyche -- and people/companies are making steady money on perpetuating them.

    if hearing about your non-US high school experience didn't give me enough hope for humanity, hearing Techie-Boyfriend's teenaged sister's views have helped even moreso.

    (this,however, begs the question, what are the Big Conflicts in high school these days? what's the YA fiction market going to be able to write about that truly speaks for this generation?)
    * the "Some Kind of Wonderful" soundtrack has one of my favorite songs from any 80s soundtrack -- a upbeat irish dancing version of "Can't Help Falling In Love" (complete with pennywhistle) by Lick the Tin

  29. I partly agree with the poster who said these stories are coming from those writers who are remembering their own days 30 years ago.

    I also believe those writers want to write their own Breakfast Club/Pretty in Pink.

    But then you have Glee and Mean Girls, which still showcase these stereotypes. And I think that's because there are still pockets of the US that are still like 30 years ago with cheerleaders=good and band geeks=outcasts.

  30. LOL Ellen...true old people will look at what you wrote and think, "She's only been out of high school for five years? She's a baby!"

    Anyway, I think it's due to these writers being unimaginative and falling back on the most overused cliches of high school life ever. Namely, what appears in the movies.

    So many people seem to mimic what they see in movies/TV in their novels. And there are tons of movies with these cliched high school situations. Ergo, you get lots of cliched YA novels.

  31. My sons recently graduated from high school, but it was a "techie" high school--no real jocks etc, but the prom was still kind of a big deal--ie, if you went to the prom with a date you were probably one of the popular kids. If you didn't, you were either an iconoclast or you weren't too popular. My sons opted out of the prom and survived--it wasn't too awful.

    Also, all that torture stuff may be exaggerated--stuffing in a locker and so on. In his freshman year, one of my sons experienced some nastiness, but for the most part the torture is more subtle (being ignored, not being included in things, and so on). I don't think a lot of writers were the cheerleaders or super-popular kids so maybe that's why it comes up so much in fiction. Our revenge, so to speak...

  32. Graduated from a public high school a few years ago.

    I think there's some truth to the stereotypes, but they're exaggerated. The jocks (and girls who went along with them, not all of whom were cheerleaders) were probably the most popular people and my impression was they did all the stuff you think they did--drunken parties with parents out of town and so on. But for the most part, they were pleasant enough people, and even as an outcast nerd I can't remember ever being snubbed by any of them.

    I never met or heard of someone like the "queen bee" of high school movie fame, who has no actual friends but controls everyone around her through fear. I doubt that would work in a real high school.

    Prom was, indeed, a huge deal. Although it was okay not to have a date. Girls without dates went in groups of friends. Guys without dates didn't go.

    And there were way more cliques (granted--large school) than you see in the movies. The band was a definite presence, and the most award-winning group on campus, and pretty insular since they practiced so much. There were groups of nerds, drama people, chorus people, people who smoked across the street from the school, ROTC people, and so on.

    There were, indeed, lockers. Very few people put locks on them though. That was SO middle school, evidently.

  33. It was kind of weird at my high school. Cheerleaders and jocks existed, but no one could really be bothered to give a damn about them. There were kids who were convinced they were the kings and queens of the school, but my graduating class was so big that most of the time people were like "who are you, and why do you talk like that? You should stop that, or you'll get smacked, tiny blonde twig."

    A few things there there were in my school--

    - weighted GPAs for students taking honors and APs. You got extra points for taking them, such that our Validictorian's GPA was about 110 out of 100.
    - really frequent fights.
    - crowded halls to the point where you could not move, and if you tried to run in the event of a fire, the resulting stampede would kill more than the fire.
    - music, art, and musical theatre were actually really cool. People admired you if you had talent in the arts, and some of the most popular kids were leads in the school plays.
    - kids spend crazy amounts on clothes and purses and hats.
    - for the most part, senior year, people come to peace with eachother. Old boundaries break down, and you start seeing each other as humans. It's nice.
    - pregnant girls disappear. No, I don't know where they go, exactly. BOCES?
    - lots of fifth year seniors and summer schoolers. We refer to it as the victory lap.

    Oh yeah, and we had youth assistants-- hall guards, basically, paid to check pass books. Going to the bathroom has more checkpoints than leaving West Berlin. And to top it off: we had our own cop in the school all the time. He had his own office. :)

  34. I went to private boarding school. We had two formals a year which were very important. There weren't "mean girls" but there were major rivalries. Jocks weren't always the most popular, but they often were. Humor and intelligence were important like someone mentioned. Also cars. Cheerleaders were not nearly as cool as the drill team (more creative). I encountered all stereotypes growing up. My niece (half American/half French) who recently graduated from HS in Paris absolutely had to watch Gossip Girl and the new 90210 when she came to visit. She said all her friends watched them on internet back in France.
    Why are those shows so popular if kids can't relate to the story lines?

  35. Actually, it just occured to me that what made you most popular in high school back in my day was how you looked. I think that is still true today. Maybe that is why kids watch the TV shows. The actors are good looking and they can relate to appearances making all the difference in their social lives. How is that for the ultimate cliche?

  36. My personal, unscientific theory is that people who write books/movie scripts weren't all that spectacularly cool in high school. It looked like the cool people were cooler than they were and the secret hope that they suffered from anorexia/bulemia/self esteem issues bolstered the confidence of those of us not in their realm.

    Thus, the caste system of fictional high school represents the secret fear and hope of authors everywhere. I was cooler than I thought and those people were miserable anyway.

    In reality, the homecoming queen and the captain of the football team were both pretty okay people, just like the geeks and dweebs in the chess and science club. The rabble rousers who made the lesser among us feel like crap ususally weren't the glowing perfect of the high school population but the hangers on who never quite made the prom court.

    None of us us figure it out until the twenty year reunion. But it makes for good, if trite, fictional shortcuts.

  37. Yes, we need some new and improved cliches!

  38. Yay for people who went to Canadian high schools and were never quite sure how much of the stuff they read in US-set YA was real!

    "being a furry = totally valid life choice"

    For reals? Either this is another great Canada/US high school divide, except one that actually happens in real life, or things have changed massively in the past two years. Back in my day, furries were punchlines.

    Also, if manga had been cool, I imagine my self-confidence would've taken a huge boost, since I wouldn't have been mocked nearly as much. Though I'm glad I didn't find it in middle school, because the stereotypes were actually held up to quite a large degree back then.

  39. I'm surprised at all the YA fiction bashing though. I don't know if we're all reading different things but I've honestly never read a YA book with those cliches. I read a lot of YA and so much of it is touching and intelligent. If you think YA fiction is like gossip girl and saved by the bell and twilight then you need to change the authors on your reading list! There is a lot of good YA out there.

  40. Actually, the high school I went to in Texas in the late 80's was almost exactly like the cliche you describe. I have no idea how things have changed since then. I'm writing a YA novel which is partly set in a local high school, and I've arranged to talk to one of the students who goes there so I can get up to date. My own kids are still in elementary.

  41. I attend a small private HS. Football and basketball are a big deal, mostly because we have better teams than most of the public schools we play and consistantly go to the state championship. Cheerleaders? Not so much. We have championship-winning cheerleaders, but most people think they're pretty lame. The girls at my school who get dates are the ones who drive nice cars, wear designer clothes, and act all flirty. So, basically like the cheerleaders in books, but they're not cheerleaders. Not as much partying at my school as at some others. Most people get along pretty well, but there are a few cliques.

  42. I went to four different American high schools, but I have to admit, I'm pretty oblivious. Until I graduated and made it to college, I genuinely thought that all the media hype about high school was completely fake. I mean, cliques? Jocks and cheerleaders? All the cheerleaders I knew were kind of just people, and I don't think I've ever met a jock... And I never saw any cliques, though I'm told they exist. I just kind of did my happy little thing and experienced approximately zero high school angst. And this at four different high schools in two different states on opposite ends of the country.

  43. My high school was pretty laid back and tolerant, and there was no one clique that ran the school. For the most part, any drama that went down happened within your own group of friends.

    What's weird is that any preferential treatment that the jocks got was institutionalized - every year we had these mandatory pep rallies around Homecoming to fete the football players before the big game. The school administration were forced to stop those my junior year when all the other student athletes complained.

  44. Present American high school attendee here :) The jocks and cheerleaders cliche (in my HS at least) is true. It's not nearly as exaggerated as books and movies make it out to be, but it is true. Prom is kind of like a right of passage. It's also something for us to get excited about since we don't really have anything else to do. Hall passes have no significance, they're just an attempt to make sure no one skips class.

  45. I attended high school in Oregon from 2000 to 2005.

    I can't really say much about the Cheerleaders or the Football Players other than they did NOT rule the school. As a Band Geek I was not tormented or ridiculed, and I have to agree with bookewyrme, we were some of the smartest and most popular kids in the school.

    There was no locker-stuffing, though that might be because our lockers were small cubes instead of the tall ones seen in TV/movies. Now, there was the occasional experiment of "can so-and-so fit in there?!" but it was purely voluntary.

    Homecoming, Winter Formal, Spring Formal, and Prom were all pretty big, but I never went to any of them. Just had no interest.

    There were definitely cliques in high school, there were tables you sat at, but it was mostly defined by what friends you had in general, not OMG YOU'RE NOT A CHEERLEADER, GET OUT OF MY SIGHT BEFORE YOU'RE SLUSHIED! There wasn't a rivalry between groups (besides the fun of starting up the school song, then cutting off so the cheerleaders got confused) and nothing was that cliche.

  46. Here's a great blog article by an Actual High School Student that reflects on this very phenomenon.

  47. I'm enjoying your blog and felt the urge to comment on this.
    I went to High School in Las Vegas, Nevada from 1995-1999. In my experience, being a Goth, "the jocks" and "the preps" picked on us consistently every day. Most of it was random name calling: "Freak!" "Satan Worshiper!" But there was one particular incident where I was walking to get lunch across the street and a car of "jocks" drove by and threw chocolate milkshakes at me. I did nothing but wear black clothing and listen to Goth music. I wouldn't say that they "ruled the school" but they definitely developed a pecking order. The funny thing was that they were all in my art classes. I also have to take into consideration that the population of students and teachers (yes I got shit from the teachers too) were Mormon. This is nothing against Mormons. I have really good Mormon friends now who don't call me names or throw milkshakes at me but I think that these people who happened to be Mormon were particularly ignorant in that they didn't bother to really find out whether or not I was a "Satan worshipper" so instead they assumed things and verbally abused me and my friends in the name of their religion. I had one guy in my history class tell me repeatedly that I was going to go to hell. I was going to go to hell because I really liked The Cure. I did notice however that they did not pick on the "nerds" and the nerds, when once I tried to make conversation with, ignored us completely like "I don't want to be seen with you." There were a few nice "preps" I count 3 and one cheerleader. One "preppy" girl used to draw designs on my brow bone with my lip liner. I used to shave my eyebrows, you know so that they looked like this >:-D And after graduation the cheerleader ended up turning into a Goth. So, it's not entirely fitting of the stereotype. Like I hate it in those movies (She's All That) when they take the weird girl and give her a makeover so that she looks like the popular girls and suddenly the jock wants to date her. That never happened to me. I dressed preppy for Halloween. I'm pretty cute. What the hell? J/K
    Anyway, It's actually nice to hear that things are changing and it sounds like the increase in "nerds" is due to the general population's new interest in education since the early 2000s. But this is just a generalized guess.
    I feel old. What the hell is a furry?

  48. Furries a valid lifestyle choice???? LMAO!
    You might want to check this out: