Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Book Review: The Winning Team

Of books deploring the quality of junior high political discourse, the most compelling is Girl Talk: The Winning Team.

Sabrina Wells, with curly auburn hair and a bubbly personality, loves magazines, shopping, and talking with her friends. A distinguished liberal thinker, she says with patent insincerity that she thinks Stacey Hansen will follow in her principal father's footsteps as a model junior high leader.

But with as much intellectual honesty and energy as Sabrina can muster (which is a lot), she starts at square one in search of general principles that everyone in seventh grade ought to share, and then moves on to specific policies that her lunch table can argue about.

"It suddenly occurred to me that a presidential campaign was almost the same as putting on a show,” remarks Sabrina, at the beginning stages of her campaign against the formidable incumbent. "And what is really cool about this show is that I have the starring role."

Sabrina faces courageously up to “the new politics of Bradley Junior High” in which sentimental populism, fueled by the fiery speeches of her rival, seems to be owned by the right to blow-drying one's hair exactly the right way...every day. Although Wells clearly regards this as terribly unfair (as do I) and a result of voters’ failure to know their own self-interest, she manages to make her argument for more “quality control” in seventh-grade democracy in ideologically neutral terms.

Wells' campaign and public relations manager, Randy Zak, a New York City native who has just moved to Acorn Falls, is cool with her spiked haircut and her hip New York clothes. Speaking eloquently in mysterious acronyms such as "ASAP", picked up by her rock video producer father, beautifully voices her concerns about the platform of their political rival:

"We have to deal with the issues. We have to let the students know that there are things Sam and I can do for Bradley that Stacey isn't even considering. I mean, just because she gave out free pens doesn't mean she cares about the seventh grade. We can show people that we DO care."

A challenging tale of political scandal; the trials and tribulations of an underdog with a penchant for seltzer water, and the toppling of a dynasty.

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