American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers

Knopf. 2016. 416p. ISBN 9780385353922. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385353939. SOC SCI
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.
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