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Writer's Room => Chapter Books, Easy Readers, and Middle Grade (MG) => Topic started by: lgalliker on September 28, 2013, 06:12 AM

Title: Fears/worries middle grade girls
Post by: lgalliker on September 28, 2013, 06:12 AM
Would some of you be able to, or willing to, share fears/worries that would be common to 13 year old girls? The MG novel I am working on is set in New York City of 1933 (Great Depression era) but I think it wouldn't especially  matter what era it is, regarding worries of my MC.


Title: Re: Fears/worries middle grade girls
Post by: crookedbook on September 28, 2013, 06:30 AM
Wearing the "right" clothes - I wore a uniform but still there were *crucial* do's and don'ts (penny loafers - do, rolled down socks - DON'T). And now I wear yoga pants all day, LOL!
Title: Re: Fears/worries middle grade girls
Post by: olmue on September 28, 2013, 07:26 AM
That's about the time that people start to be more discriminating of their friends. So it's not enough that someone sat by you and had the same kind of juice in kindergarten anymore--they want friends who are similar somehow. Er, packlike, in fact. I have a hard time believing all the books and movies about high school cliques, to be honest, because from personal experience and observation, the mindless pack instinct actually happens around 13 (in girls, at least). Which means that girls will be afraid of being alone, because it means there's something wrong with them if they can't find a pack. (Not the word they use, of course! Just thinking of other packlike animals...) And sometimes the fear of not being in a pack makes girls drive others away who they see as competition for their spot.

It's also the age when what happens outside in your environment starts to take on more importance than inside your own family, which is natural, since at some point you need to be able to live on your own as an adult. It's a gradual process. But I think that whereas before, you might not notice external things, you might start to worry about your environment. About war. About the economy. About people going through something much worse than you, in your sheltered life, could imagine. (Or maybe you are the one going through something horrible, and you start to see what this might mean for you in the long term.)
Title: Re: Fears/worries middle grade girls
Post by: lgalliker on September 28, 2013, 07:46 AM
Thanks, crookedbook and've given me a couple of good things to think about!
Title: Re: Fears/worries middle grade girls
Post by: dewsanddamps on September 28, 2013, 08:13 AM
Thirteen year olds are going through a lot of body changes, too. So there are body image issues, acne, dealing with periods (and white skirts), bras, boys who moo at you in the hallway, the pervy teacher who seats the most buxom girls in the front....
Title: Re: Fears/worries middle grade girls
Post by: Cynthia Kremsner on September 28, 2013, 08:40 AM
The hormones can often be likened to exposed electronic cables . . . if they're touched the wrong way, they arc. They can see the hypersensitivity this causes in their friends, but not themselves. I think the "mean girl" issue is more prevalent in MS than HS. A couple years ago, my daughter put on a very cute outfit, got a lot of complements, then another girl came up to her and verbally tore it to shreds . . . and that's what she remembered at the end of the day. In fact, she's in HS now and still remembers it because she pulled out the same outfit and wore it proudly. (She had avoided putting all the elements together as an ensemble again until then). It also seems that everyone got labeled. The band geeks, the orchedorks,(orchestra) the brains, etc.

Girls above average height can be taller than most of the boys in 7th grade. Both myself and my daughter had this issue. Because of this, tall girls start to slouch . . . shoulders turned in and body curving forward like a wet noodle. I remembered hearing, "stand straight," from my parents as I caught myself saying the same thing to my daughter. The height angst becomes more of a non-issue in High School.

Title: Re: Fears/worries middle grade girls
Post by: Liz Straw on September 28, 2013, 02:41 PM
I think the change in some Middle School girls the need to belong to a group is much stronger than others, these are the ones that become the bullies and beasties.  Everyone wants friends, but needing to label people as band or orchestra geeks, math geeks, nerds, come from those insecure in their place in the world.  Yes, this is looking back at my own experiences a loooong time ago.  I was one of the bullied.  No other reason other than I was an introvert and I liked what I did, playing in band and reading.  My 'best friend' from elementary school turned an entire group of people on me that sent me into amazing panic/anxiety attacks.  It wasn't what I wore (I pretty much wore what everyone else wore although my parents did not buy a lot of name brand clothes - I usually got some for my birthday or Christmas, but I was no worse than the average girl at school.  I just was not one who would stand up to a group of people and thus became a victim.  Yes, I thought after I was being picked on I was uglier than everyone else, my clothes were worse, I was stupid - I bought into what they were saying.  Until I entered 9th grade (I went to a 7th-9th grade school) and I also moved in October of my 9th grade year.  I hated the move, but in the end it was probably the best, getting me away from an abusive band director (he also picked on me for no reason, trying to make me believe I had do talent - he only liked kids whose parents would smooze him) and because I ended up in a far different group of classes than those who started bullying me, most of that stopped, but the damage was there.  However, I started making new friends.  I hated leaving those friends behind. 

In High School I discovered that the cliques did not end, but I was fine with that, I was beginning to know who I was and yes some of those thoughts still lingered. I blossomed in my new band, was also played in orchestra and in a IUSB (college) Ensemble - so phooey on the band director that thought I had no talent.  I made friends and in all hated high school.

I was happy to get away from the enforced circle of cliques and go to college where you could finally hang out with people you liked and were like you. 

Junior High in the Great Depression would be about those who have and don't have, the basic language of girls hasn't changed over the decades.  Queen Bees and wanna be's have probably always existed.  There will be those that there parents still have jobs and though they may not have much, they do have something, there are those that the depression may not have affected much at all, and then those that the depression has left them without much at all. 

When I look at my parents during this time I see a fairly big difference. My mother lived with her parents, both of whom worked form the time she was in Jr. High/High School.  Here father was a meat cutter (never say butcher) and her mother worked at Miles Laboratory (This may have been closer to the late 30s).  They had a camera and most of their life is well documented by photographs and even studio photographs.

On the other hand, there is my father who was left with his grandparents at the age of two.  Living on a Retired postal clerk pension (my great-grandfather was one of those who used to sort the mail on a railroad car and wore a Colt 45 at his hip in the event that anyone attempted to rob the postal car).  He grew up with virtually nothing.  School pictures will show that he has holes in his socks or sweater (ah, he was a boy) and there are virtually no photographs unless someone else has given them to him.  His grandparents had very little, He slept on a cot in the dining room, his clothes were kept in the bottom drawer in a desk. However he did have some great games that he received along with books that he has at home.  I am not sure where they kept them.  He did not go hungry, his grandmother used to make him eat a big (cereal like) bowl of vegetables at dinner every day.  He still eats his vegetables in a separate albeit smaller bowl to this day. 

So I think you would still have the same problems that girls have today, with the problems of the depression thrown in.  Remade dresses, homemade dresses v.s store bought dresses.  Shoes that are well worn v.s. shoes that are brand new.  The latest fashion - the remade dresses.  Just a different era, a much poorer era with the same mind set.  Hormones raging, introverts - extroverts, what's in the lunch pail (I know my dad walked home for lunch, but I am not sure about my mom - HA, I used to walk home every day for lunch and walk back - a mile each way, same school as my father - no cafeteria - my four mile a day walk - tee hee).   

My parents are still living.  My dad won't remember much, but my mom will remember specific things - eh sometimes.  More personal details. 
Title: Re: Fears/worries middle grade girls
Post by: Rachel Parris on September 28, 2013, 03:40 PM
I've taught middle school kids and can definitely echo the statements about cliques/pack mentality and using social ostracism to compete and fight with each other.  Middle school girls rarely fight fight- few words and almost no contact happen directly between warring individuals- it is passive aggressive. (I am not talking about bullying, that is different.)

Of course it is also a time when girls start to develop serious crushes for the first time- most of my friends (as well as myself) had their first "real" kiss in 8th grade.  There might be a lot of name writing and heart drawing involving the girl's object of affection. It is all very intense but also still very immature. I would also agree with the earlier posts about body image- feeling insecure and comparing yourself to others.

I think middle school is also a time when children start to realize they are seperate entities from their parents- that they have different opinions and clashing taste in things (i.e. music, clothing, literature, politics).  Up until that point most kids see their parents as the ultimate authority on everything.  At this time they begin forming their own voice- although the way they express that can range from major rebellion to withdrawing.

One big difference I would note between middle school and high school is that there is still quite a "kiddish" quality about a middle schooler's personality.  They are very giggley, squirmey and energetic.  In teaching I found high schoolers to be much more mellow.  But even between 6th and 8th grade, there is a huge difference in the attitude, size and appearance of kids- its pretty surprising.  Some 8th graders could pass as college students and some sixth graders are barely big enough to ride on a roller coaster.

Hope that helps!
Title: Re: Fears/worries middle grade girls
Post by: AnnH on September 28, 2013, 05:04 PM
Worrying if you're the only girl who has or hasn't gotten her period.
Title: Re: Fears/worries middle grade girls
Post by: Helen on September 28, 2013, 06:17 PM
Is your MC rich or poor?  I would wonder if the girl is worried about her or sisters swilling  bath tub gin. If she is worried about periods, she might call it 'the time'...probably not use the word 'period'. I think she might long for movie star clothes and hair-dos and wearing shoes that are heeled not the flat utilitarian of childhood. Other girls that have more might tease her or she might worry about a friend whose family is struggling.  She might want to be allowed to 'step out' or 'court' with a boy like her older sister.
Title: Re: Fears/worries middle grade girls
Post by: lgalliker on September 30, 2013, 06:09 AM
Thanks to all of you wonderful people who have answered (and still are answering) my questions re fears/worries of middle grade girls around  1933.  Almost each entry I read can be a new story itself! Very gratifying - and helpful - information for me.