30 July 2010

Day 125: Dan Walker (guest blogger)

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. ISBN: 9780141310886.

It takes a page and a half before our narrator, Melinda, gives us a rundown of all the clans, as she calls them, that students at her high school separate into.  In my time, we called them cliques, and my high school didn't have quite as colorful a selection.  I labelled my peers as I saw them: Jocks, Nerds, Preps, Goths, Burnouts, Shy Girls, Artists, and all the black kids.  I, of course, didn't fit in with any group.

The Preps liked me because I did their homework, but I was poor and couldn't take extra classes at the university in summer. The Jocks picked on everyone. Most of the rest were okay by me, but I didn't fit their style. Nerds came closest to being 'my people', because I wore glasses and got good grades, but even then, I don't think I had the same motivations a lot of them did. Plus, nerds in large packs are
really annoying.*

Thanks to a chance encounter halfway through tenth grade, I fell in with a group of about thirteen kids, from all grades, and found my circle of friends. I like to think we were far more tightly-knit than the other social groups. Rather than letting ourselves be outcast by them, we wore our lack of fitting in like a badge, proud of not being part of the herd. We sat around before and after school, playing role-playing games. We dreamed big stories about fantastic characters. We laughed at the outside world.

We called ourselves the Fire Hazards; funny story, that. One of our first hangouts was in front of the second-floor elevator, which was only accessible by faculty. We would group together there before class and do what we did. One day, the principal came by and told us we had to find somewhere else to sit, because we were being fire hazards by blocking the elevator. (Of course, you're not supposed to use elevators during a fire, right?) Like our outcast status, we took the designation and owned it, moving into the cafeteria.

I was kind of amazed in the book by the character Heather, who was trying desperately to fit in with one particular clan, the Marthas. I don't remember that sort of social competition in my school, but then again, I didn't care about it. I mean, yeah, fitting in would have been nice sometimes, but I would definitely be a different person now. I still carry a lot of high school with me; sometimes I wonder if I still haven't left it behind. So many of my best memories are from school; many of my attitudes were formed from things that happened in high school, too. But then, who I am was irrevocably shaped by everything that happened to me during my public school days, and my identity is forever tied to those Fire Hazards I used to call friends. Maybe I'll never be able to give it up; maybe I shouldn't. Who knows?

Dan Walker (pseudonym) is a writer from Northeast Ohio, who would be teaching ESL if he wasn't unemployed. He received a BA in Creative Writing from Wright State University in 2004 and a Masters in Teaching English as a Second Language from Kent State University in 2009. He will make some lucky librarian a wonderful husband someday.

*Post originally written July 11, 2010 so the regular author could get caught up on her own reading/writing.


  1. This book has a special place in my heart. I'm usually really harsh on young adult novels, but I really liked this one. Erm...that has nothing to do with your topic. Cliques! I remember that, to me, our cliques seemed to be formed about what education level you tested into. There was C level, consisting of the trouble-makers, the slackers, and the burnouts, kids who didn't seem to care about reaching their potential or who were never really given the chance to, then there was A level, which were the "smarter", non-sporty kids, who worked a little harder (i.e. turned in homework) but were really pretty average on the whole, and then there was AA, which were the more preppy, jock-type smarty pants kids whose GPAs were (unfairly) weighted. When I started there in 9th grade I was in C classes because I never took a test (I was homeschooled before this), then the next year I was in A, and I couldn't move ahead if if I wanted to because you had to take the test in 8th grade to get into AA. It was a pretty messed up system, and it divided all of us (in a school of about 90 kids per grade level) not only on a perceived intellectual level but also a (possibly more important in high school) social level. When they introduced AP classes in my senior year, it mixed things up a bit because the As and AAers would take those classes together, but that still left out most of the Cs (though the classes were open to them too). I remember wanting terribly to score higher on my AP test than the AAs, because I was so bitter that I couldn't even be in the running for valedictorian because of their weighted GPAs. But then I did really poorly in Chemistry and Gym, so my GPA dropped to 3.9 anyway. This was a lot more than I intended to write. OH! High school...you son of a bitch. :)

  2. Agreed, high school pretty much sucked ass.


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