'The Clique': Chick-lit For Teens and Tweens

Welcome to "The Clique."

If you are a teenage or tween girl in America, you may already belong.

They are eager, focused –- and all dressed up.

Lisi Harrison is the leader of this clique. She created it with her best-selling book series that has taken young American women by storm.

At a recent bookstore signing for "The Clique" series in Laguna Beach, Calif., Harrison was energized by the girls' enthusiasm.

"I love these books," one girl gushed. "They're the best books since Harry Potter."

Not Your Mom's Childhood Books

"The Clique" books, though, are very different from Harry Potter.

They're chick-lit for tweens, really. Just check out the titles: "The Pretty Committee Strikes Back," "Dial L for Loser," "Bratfest at Tiffany's."

And they're all about a group -- a clique -- of middle-school girls: Spoiled (mostly), rich (mostly), and obsessed with fashion, brand names, makeup, being thin and trashing one another.

Status means everything in the books. And the mean girls rule.

"Anne of Green Gables" this ain't.

The girls -- Lisi Harrison's girls -- they just eat her books up.

"They're really addicting. They're so interesting. There is always something new," Minali, a series fan, said. "What's going to happen to her?"

Another fan, Riley, concurred.

"I like the books because I can pretend to be the people and not just like, of how they act and how bratty they are sometimes, but of how they stay friends, no matter what," she said.

"It's really riveting and you really like to read them because you just get captured in them and all the things they say and the things they do," Zoey, another reader, said. "They're wrong, but it's just fun to read about them."

Not Everyone's a Fan

"The Clique" books have plenty of critics -- feminists who say they send the wrong messages about appearance and body image, conservatives who find the characters' scheming behavior appalling, liberals who can't stand the avalanche of brand name dropping on every page.

But the books sell -- 6 million copies so far. And a Hollywood movie is in the works.

We visited Harrison in her office near her home in Laguna Beach to talk to her about this phenomenon -- and what it means for kids.

"It's fantasy. It's aspirational. I, being the person that never got to wear designer clothes growing up, as most girls in the country can't," Harrison said. "It's 'Oh, my God. What would it feel like to do that?' Dare to dream. It's like, you know, saying 'Harry Potter is not real, but wouldn't we all love to be magic and be able to do magic?' It's that same thing."

Harrison said all the references to designer clothing and materialism was intended to be completely satirical.

"I am pointing out something in our culture that I think is actually very unhealthy," she said. "To the point of it being funny. I mean, I truly think that the obsession with this stuff is so over the top and so crazy, that, to me, it's funny, and I think the readers get it. I mean, I drop 50 brand names in a couple of chapters and it's the point of insanity."

Real Girls, Real Worries

Whatever her intention, Harrison's books touch a nerve -- a raw nerve -- for middle-school girls.

With worries about clothes, weight, boys, money and school, to name a few, these children are under a lot of pressure.

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