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Peyton Grady has finally made it to the varsity cheerleading squad and Alpha status at Beachwood preparatory Academy and only her BFF Maya knows her carefully guarded secret, that she’s a scholarship student. So why would Peyton risk being seen talking to the school misfits?

Ellika Garrett is the new jumbo-sized cheerleader whose mother bought her a spot on the squad with a hefty donation to the school. Peyton wonders just how far she’ll have to go to make Ellika understand that she does not want to be her friend. Who wants a weepy-eyed walrus looking over your shoulder when you’re trying to get the attention of Von Cohen, the hottest guy in school? Every time Peyton gets the nerve up to ask him to the Sadie Hawkin’s dance, Ellika appears and chases Von away.

Luckily, Von doesn’t give up easily. Everyone can see he’s totally into Peyton and it’s not long before she finally has her first real boyfriend, a definite plus on the Alpha girl scale. But how will she explain to him about Compular? Yes, even wealthy prep schools have those super smart nerdy guys who brag about outrageous things nobody believes.  Peyton can’t avoid Compular. If he doesn’t tutor her in Trig, she could lose her scholarship.

As Peyton teeter-totters on the brink of social elitism, Lexie, the captain of the squad, tips the balance. Peyton, along with the other varsity cheerleaders, are expected to contribute ideas to a hazing list that becomes crueler with each idea. The point is to make Ellika so miserable that she’ll quit the team. In her quest to be one of the Alpha girls, Peyton has already sacrificed her friendship with Maya. What else will she destroy, who else will she step on, to get on top? Can she really do this to Ellika? To herself?

SWIMMING WITH THE SHARKS by Debbie Reed Fischer is an incredible book. It’s a page turner that is as difficult to put down as it is to read. Are there teens out there that are really this cruel? What would you, the reader, be willing to sacrifice to have it all?

I can tell you as a teacher of teens for 20 years that, without question, there are teens who have an adult persona and a totally different peer persona. This book will force you to take a look at yourself and those around you. I believe this book will inspire its readers to stand up for what they believe is right. For that reason, and because the characters have stayed with me so vividly, I’m giving SWIMMING WITH THE SHARKS the coveted Gold Star.

My thirteen-year-old theatre vagabond-band geek-cheerleader daughter grabbed this book before I could read it and read it in a day. She raved about it. Then my almost fifteen-year-old band geek-football playing-student council representative son saw “sharks” in the title and picked it up, also finishing it in a day. They both loved it. I can’t think of too many books on this topic that resonate with boys as well as girls.

I had the pleasure of reviewing Debbie Reed Fischer’s debut novel, BRALESS IN WONDERLAND, and was thrilled to found out I would also get the opportunity to review SWIMMING WITH THE SHARKS. I was not disappointed. Well done, Ms. Fischer. You have earned yourself a gold star! Thank you for a terrific read!

This review was originally posted at
#1 - November 17, 2008, 05:05 PM


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