Back to School Book Review: Middle School Survival Guides

Back to School Book Review: Middle School Survival Guides

With a whole new class of tweens venturing into the scary territory of middle school or junior high for the first time, Discovery Girls released four books as Middle School Survival Guides. They provide advice, tips and strategies for navigating the social minefield that can be middle school.

Tweens often feel that they are the only ones who have ever had to deal with, well, anything, and the resulting loneliness compounds any problem.  Turns out, they have good company and life will go on. That message and the others in the books are ones that parents would approve of and deliver themselves, but if you're a parent, what do you know?  These books deliver the same message in a neutral yet supportive way that tweens accept.

Friendship Hardship

This book aims to help girls navigate the course of middle school friendship with chapters like "To Clique or Not to Clique," "Stop Playing the Popularity Game!" and "Be the Best Friend You Can Be." I liked that it empowered girls to take matters into their own hands and to examine what they can do to be a good friend as well as have a good friend.  Often, girls are the victims of mean girl behavior or bullying, but the phrasing of this book focused on girls having power, no matter what other choose to do.

I like the proactive approach, promising to "show you how to tell the difference between good and bad friends before you hand over your feelings (and your secrets) to them." I really like the idea of trying to head off problems before they start. If you don't tell someone you don't know very well your deepest secrets, they cannot tell the whole school. Simple, yes, but maybe not as obvious to an 11 year-old as it is to someone older.

This book includes several quizzes, which are always a big hit with my tween. Not only do they make the book more interactive, they prompted some reflection by my tween.

Sticky Situations

Middle school is full of sticky situations, the literal ones like chocolate on your pants, and the more figurative ones like calling someone the wrong name, being embarrassed by your parents or crushing on a boy who doesn't feel the same. This book deals with all of them, and more, such as being the first to wear a bra ("If you don't make a big deal about it, probably no one else will, either.") or period on your pants ("This is a major bummer, but it happens to every girl at some point in time.")

Each problem is handled in one page, and often in a paragraph. The theme of "keep calm and carry on" is combined with a message of not being as alone as one might think.  All the pages include a percentage of girls who felt similarly, according to Discovery Girl polls. For example, 67% of girls have heard gossip about themselves.

My tween liked this book the best.   The format made it easily digestible to her. She appreciated that it covered a lot of situations and that the advice seemed doable.

All the Advice You'll Ever Need

"School, boys, friends, family and more ... your toughest questions answered"  This book compiles questions answered as part of the Ask Ali advice column in Discovery Girls magazine.  Again, the advice is doled out in a paragraph, but I think my tween appreciated the brevity.  While I would have liked a little more explanation sometimes, perhaps, but the advice given seemed reasonable.  Often, Ali encourages a girl to try to solve a problem on her own and then go to a parent or adult for advice.  I think it varies from tween to tween just how self-reliant a tween can be, so a parent who wants to be more involved may have issues with that advice.

This seems like a good "reference book" to have on hand and to use as needed.

If your tween is a Discovery Girls magazine reader, these may seem redundant.

My Worst Day . . .  and How I Survived It

"Inspiring stories from girls who have overcome tough times" is the tagline, and they mean it when they say the tweens profiled have faced tough times.  This book features struggles with the typical tween problems like friends moving away, being the new girl in school or when friends change from the tween's perspective. It also addresses situations like how a tweens have dealt with a family member who has issues with substance abuse, the loss of a parent and being robbed at gunpoint.  The girls' descriptions can be heartbreaking and some of the stories are intense. This book provides a good reminder for girls that they are not alone in some of the experiences, and also reminds them that some girls experience significant hardships that are not always obvious on the surface.

As a parent, I liked that the stories were written from the girls' perspectives, reminding me what it feels like for someone in the midst of the drama, without the benefit of hindsight that comes with adulthood.

The books can be purchased here and I also found them on Amazon.

Disclosure: Discovery  Girls provided me with the books to review.

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