Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Book Review: The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth, by Alexandra Robbins (2011, Hyperion)

Recommended for ages 16+.

If you think the popular kids’ table is the table you need to be sitting at, think again.
The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth is journalist Alexandra Robbins’ look at how the “cafeteria fringe” – the groups of kids outside the popularity sphere – are often the teens who find success after high school.

Robbins follows six high schoolers and one teacher from different groups that make up her “cafeteria fringe” – the band geek, the nerd, the loner, the new girl, the gamer, the weird girl, and the “popular bitch” - and weaves their experiences throughout a regular school year with sociological research on conformity, popularity, and changing perceptions. She comes up with some interesting insights, most notably, her  “Quirk Theory”, which posits that  the characteristics that lead tweens and teens to exclude each other socially in school are the same characteristics or skills that will be valued and admired in those same students after high school and into adulthood.
Quirk Theory is an interesting concept, and it certainly appears to be grounded in fact, when you witness the success of public figures like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Angelina Jolie, Taylor Swift, and other notable personalities who have come forth about being “different” or “weird”, and therefore excluded or bullied, in school. The book provides an eye-opening look at how cliques rule the school, often ith teacher approval – or, at the very least, without being challenged – and how faculties often have their own cliques.
The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth is an adult book, but should be required reading in high school The case studies alone will reach readers of all groups. It can generate meaningful discussion and perhaps build bridges between students and between teachers and students. Teachers need to read this book in order to stay in touch with what really goes on in school and to be mindful of kids who are excluded.
The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth was a Books for a Better Life finalist (2011); and an Alex Awards nominee (2012). GoodReads designated it the Best Nonfiction Book for 2011.
Alexandra Robbins’ website offers information about all of her books, contact information, author event information, and links to social media. 

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