September 2007

Basic instincts of high school freshmen

By Marissa Walsh
Review by
Share this Article:

As Andie prepares for her freshman year of high school, her superstar sister Claire is gearing up for her first year at Yale. Since she’ll be away from home and unable to offer sisterly advice (i.e., bug her little sister), Claire has put together a how-to map of high school from orientation to graduation in the form of a field guide. The nature-based topics include Subtropical Shrubs (Breaks), Gilled Mushrooms Causing Sweating, Tears, and Salivation (Social Life) and Fruits or Seeds, Bright Red/Orange (School Spirit).

Andie devours Claire’s book cover-to-cover with her best friend Bess, who will be going to a different high school. The girls wonder if they’ll be able to remain friends despite all of the drama, hierarchy, pranks and rules of high school. And more importantly: Will they be able to survive these crucial four years without ruining their GPAs and reputations? Claire’s greatest advice comes at the end of the reading: She tells Andie to disregard everything she has just said because there is no definite route to take, and you learn the most by figuring it out on your own. But, she warns, you are bound to do best if you don’t talk about people behind their backs, as it always seems to lead to trouble.

Interspersed with pop culture references and the commentary of Andie and Bess as they read Claire’s guide, A Field Guide to High School cleverly relates the high school experience to the hierarchy found in nature and the animal kingdom. Andie’s nerves are slowly calmed as she realizes that she’ll fit into the order of things somehow and that if Claire could make it through, then so can she.

Marissa Walsh, a former children’s book editor, completes her funny and frank look at these complicated years by suggesting a summer reading list that includes Louise Rennison and Curtis Sittenfeld; movies and TV shows to pay close attention to, such as Freaks and Geeks ; and a back-to-school soundtrack featuring the White Stripes, Belle &andamp; Sebastian and Stevie Wonder. This is a book for anyone who is nervous about beginning high school and those who are relieved to have completed it. Katie Lewis survived high school in Nashville.

Trending Reviews

Get the Book

A Field Guide to High School

A Field Guide to High School

By Marissa Walsh
ISBN 9780385734103

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our enewsletters to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres every Tuesday.