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American Girls
Cover of American Girls
American Girls
Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers
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A New York Times BestsellerInstagram. Whisper. Yik Yak. YouTube. Kik. Ask.fm. Tinder. The dominant force in the lives of girls coming of age in America today is social media. What it is doing to an...
A New York Times BestsellerInstagram. Whisper. Yik Yak. YouTube. Kik. Ask.fm. Tinder. The dominant force in the lives of girls coming of age in America today is social media. What it is doing to an...
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Description-

  • A New York Times Bestseller
    Instagram. Whisper. Yik Yak. YouTube. Kik. Ask.fm. Tinder. The dominant force in the lives of girls coming of age in America today is social media. What it is doing to an entire generation of young women is the subject of award-winning Vanity Fair writer Nancy Jo Sales's riveting and explosive American Girls.
    With extraordinary intimacy and precision, Sales captures what it feels like to be a girl in America today. From Montclair to Manhattan and Los Angeles, from Florida and Arizona to Texas and Kentucky, Sales crisscrossed the country, speaking to more than two hundred girls, ages thirteen to nineteen, and documenting a massive change in the way girls are growing up, a phenomenon that transcends race, geography, and household income. American Girls provides a disturbing portrait of the end of childhood as we know it and of the inexorable and ubiquitous experience of a new kind of adolescence—one dominated by new social and sexual norms, where a girl's first crushes and experiences of longing and romance occur in an accelerated electronic environment; where issues of identity and self-esteem are magnified and transformed by social platforms that provide instantaneous judgment. What does it mean to be a girl in America in 2016? It means coming of age online in a hypersexualized culture that has normalized extreme behavior, from pornography to the casual exchange of nude photographs; a culture rife with a virulent new strain of sexism and a sometimes self-undermining notion of feminist empowerment; a culture in which teenagers are spending so much time on technology and social media that they are not developing basic communication skills. From beauty gurus to slut-shaming to a disconcerting trend of exhibitionism, Nancy Jo Sales provides a shocking window into the troubling world of today's teenage girls.
    Provocative and urgent, American Girls is destined to ignite a much-needed conversation about how we can help our daughters and sons negotiate unprecedented new challenges.

Excerpts-

  • From the book Chapter One

    13

    Montclair, New Jersey

    "SEND NOODZ."

    The boy sent the message in the middle of the day, when she was walking home from school. He sent it via direct message on Instagram, in the same shaky, childlike font as the new Drake album ("IF YOURE READING THIS ITS TOO LATE").

    Sophia stared at her phone.

    "Wait what???" she responded.

    No answer.

    She continued along the empty streets. It was a warm spring day and the wide green lawns were full of blooming trees. Montclair was a pretty place, and it was safe, so a lot of kids walked home from school. She'd been with friends, but they had already peeled off and gone inside their houses, so she was all alone. She hoped to see someone she knew, hopefully a girl she could tell: "Oh my God, you know Zack, he asked me for nudes!" And: "What should I do?"

    But there was no one around. She thought about texting someone—most things, observations, gossip, jokes, were shared right away, but this seemed like something new. Something almost . . . private. Secret. That rare thing, something no one else could know.

    She had heard of boys asking girls for nudes before, but it had never happened to her. This was her first time. She didn't know how to respond, or if she should respond. Should she be outraged? Shocked? Her first reaction was: "I was like, Whoa, he finds me attractive? That's kind of strange. I never knew he found me attractive . . ."

    She thought about the boy. He was thirteen, the same age as she, a boy from her eighth-grade class. He was a boy like other boys—he talked loud and rough and wore baggy shorts and snapback hats and had a swaggering demeanor like Justin Bieber, whom he probably would have dissed. He was "cute," "but kind of gross."

    She wondered if he liked her. "He never likes anything of mine on Instagram, but why would he ask me that if he hadn't been thinking about me? If I wasn't in his mind? Boys aren't gonna come out and just say, 'I like you,' 'cause they don't do that. They have, like, their own language . . ."

    When she got to her house, a Victorian house with a wraparound porch, the place where boys had once come calling for girls, she went upstairs to her room. Plugged her phone into the charger. It was almost out of juice. She'd been up most of the night texting under the covers so if her mother walked in she wouldn't see—texting friends in her group chat who were still awake, sending words and emojis and giggling over inside jokes. And then during the day she had texted all through school. She woke up tired a lot of the time, but, she said, "I just drink a Red Bull."

    She went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. Peered at herself. Pursed her lips. Stuck her tongue out to the side, Miley-style. Tossed her hair. She knew that she was "attractive," so she wasn't all that surprised that the boy had asked her for nudes. "I get, like, a hundred likes on all my pictures and people comment, like, 'Gorgeous . . . ' "

    But she wondered what it would be like if someone actually had a naked picture of her, and she wondered what that picture would be. "Not like I was gonna do it—oh my God, no—but if you did, like, what would you send so it looked good, and not ratchet?"

    She wondered if the boy had thought about kissing her. If he was going to be her first kiss. She'd been wondering what it would be like to kiss a boy, to have one want you so bad he would take you into the park or even his room and press his lips against yours, wrapping his arms around you, holding you close.

    She heard her phone ding from inside the bathroom. A text alert. She ran to see. It...

About the Author-

  • NANCY JO SALES is an award-winning journalist and author who has written for Vanity Fair, New York, Harper's Bazaar, and many other publications. She is known for her reporting on youth culture and crime and for her profiles of pop-culture icons. She won a 2011 Front Page Award for "Best Magazine Feature" and a 2010 Mirror Award for "Best Profile, Digital Media." Her 2013 book, The Bling Ring: How a Gang of Fame-Obsessed Teens Ripped Off Hollywood and Shocked the World, tells the true story behind the Sofia Coppola film The Bling Ring, which was based on Sales's 2010 Vanity Fair piece "The Suspects Wore Louboutins." Born in West Palm Beach, Florida, Sales graduated summa cum laude from Yale in 1986. She became a contributing editor at Vanity Fair in 2000. She has a daughter, Zazie, and lives in the East Village in New York City.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from February 15, 2016
    This intelligent, history-grounded investigation by journalist Sales (The Bling Ring) finds dismaying evidence that social media has fostered a culture "very hostile" to girls in which sexism, harassment, and cyberbullying have become the "new normal," along with the "constant chore" of tailoring one's image for public consumption and approval. With self-awareness and candor, her interview subjects, ages 13 to 19, clearly articulate the ways in which "social media is a nightmare," a strange "half-reality" that produces self-consciousness, narcissism, image obsession, anxiety, depression, loneliness, drama, and "the overwhelming pressure to be perfect" or at least "to be considered ‘hot.' " Teens value social media as a revolutionary tool for collective action, but Sales finds that across race, class, and region, social media reinforces a sexual double standard; its use reduces communication skills, and its users exhibit continual disrespect for women hand-in-hand with "an almost total erosion of privacy." She deftly analyzes the causes of this phenomenon of self-objectification—among them the "pornification of American life," the hypersexualization of teens, and broader trends towards impulse gratification—as well as its consequences, including rising rates of STDs, self-harm, exploitation, and a deterioration in girls' ability to cultivate relationships, intimacy, and a rich interior life. Solutions will be difficult, but Sales's research demonstrates that parental involvement is key to inoculating girls against the "insidious" effects of online life. Parents, educators, administrators, and the purveyors of social media platforms should all take note of this thoughtful, probing, and urgent work.

  • Kirkus

    February 15, 2016
    What happens to teenage girls when their social lives play out online? Teenagers have always excelled in befuddling their parents and teachers. While it's an embraced cliche for parents to discuss how different things were when they were that age, it's undeniable that social media has profoundly influenced the experience of teens in ways that older generations find difficult to comprehend. In her second book, journalist Sales (The Bling Ring: How a Gang of Fame-Obsessed Teens Ripped Off Hollywood and Shocked the World, 2013) provides an excellent primer for understanding how the crucible of adolescence has moved to the digital world. This is not the first such book, but Sales impressively balances the specifics of what is happening online currently with the broader implications for boys and girls--no simple task given the rapidly shifting digital landscape, with the next big thing consistently eclipsing the popular medium of the moment. It would be easy to suggest that, despite the different battlefield, the kids are going through the same things kids have always gone through. But the author makes a compelling case for understanding the differences in both the quantity and quality of today's online dangers. Having interviewed dozens of teenagers--mostly female--she explores a wide range of topics involving body image, the ways boys treat girls, the ways girls treat girls, and the different forms of competition generated by seemingly endless online arenas. Sales delves into the debate about which ideas constitute feminist empowerment and which are more misogynistic ploys to sell empowerment to girls while simultaneously endangering them. The author discovered that, despite conflicting statistics, there's an extremely high likelihood that most teenagers have watched pornography online--or will soon. Sales takes a broader view than simply being the scold of technology; she spoke with teens who point out the empowerment possibilities of a smartphone: being able to document injustices as they happen and broadcast them to the world. For parents with young daughters, this book is an ice-cold, important wake-up call.

    COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    March 15, 2016

    Descend with Sales (The Bling Ring) into a world where sexism, pornography, and self-absorption spawn an atmosphere of one-upmanship, cyberbullying, slut shaming, and wretched hookups. These interviews with teens will arouse readers' tears, anger, and revulsion. Yet, the sample of youth Sales interviews, mostly in New Jersey, may not be representative of the United States in general. Nearly all Sales's subjects own iPhones, and there is no mention of the digital divide. Fears of phone confiscation during school hours aren't mentioned despite many schools' documented policies preventing the devices in the classroom. Moreover, Sales only interviews college students during alcohol-soaked vacations and doesn't back up her claim that sexism creates "social media Hell." The author's counterexamples show that sexism is too closely tied to individual perception for mass generalization. Readers also should consider Dana Boyd's It's Complicated, which offers a nuanced treatment of online conflict among teens, Jane Bailey and Valerie Stevens's Egirls, Ecitizens, a scholarly treatment of teenage Internet culture, and Leora Tannenbaum's I Am Not a Slut. VERDICT Although Sales sets forth a weak methodology and conclusion, her latest offering is still a compelling read for teens and those who work with them, giving voice to those who might not be heard otherwise.--Eileen H. Kramer, Georgia Perimeter Coll. Lib., Clarkston

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publishers Weekly Starred Review "This intelligent, history-grounded investigation by journalist Sales (The Bling Ring) finds dismaying evidence that social media has fostered a culture "very hostile" to girls in which sexism, harassment, and cyberbullying have become the "new normal," along with the "constant chore" of tailoring one's image for public consumption and approval... Parents, educators, administrators, and the purveyors of social media platforms should all take note of this thoughtful, probing, and urgent work."

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