JOURNALIST AND NONFICTION WRITER, TO DISCUSS HER NEWEST BOOK AMERICAN GIRLS: SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE SECRET LIVES OF TEENAGERS
Anne North of The New York Times said “Too often, discussions of teenagers exclude teenagers themselves, and it’s clear that Sales has gone to great pains to listen to her subjects and to earn their trust.” North adds that the reader’s reward for Sales’ efforts are candid anecdotes that “make a persuasive case that social media has ratcheted up the pressure girls have long faced to appear both desirable and chaste.”
In its review of American Girls, The Wall Street Journal concludes “social media is life; social media destroys life.” Publishers Weekly elaborates on this paradox by explaining that “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.” While disentangling this problem is a task for not only the author, but the reader as well, Sales brings us all much closer to the heart of the matter.
American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers is Sales’ second investigative book. Her first, The Bling Ring (2013), tracked the infamous band of teenage burglars who fleeced A-list celebrities. In that earlier book Sales expanded on her original Vanity Fair story (which Sofia Coppola optioned and later developed into the 2013 film of the same name starring Emma Watson). Many of the themes present in The Bling Ring, including what Tim Adams of The Guardian characterizes as “the sexualisation of children, the empty aspirations of a fame culture,” are explored in great depth in American Girls.
Nancy Jo Sales has a reputation as a leading voice on youth culture, beginning with her days at People magazine in the mid-nineties, and continuing through Contributing Editor posts at NY Magazine and most recently Vanity Fair. Youth culture and technology advance quickly and with American Girls Sales again helps us to keep pace and, according to the San Francisco Chronicle “forces us to face a disturbing new reality in a book that should be required reading for parents, teachers, school administrators, legislators and the boys’ club of Silicon Valley.”
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