Growing Bookworms Newsletter: February 5, 2008
Wednesday Afternoon Visits: February 6

The Social Experiments of Dorie Dilts: The School for Cool: P. G. Kain

Book: The Social Experiments of Dorie Dilts: The School for Cool
Author: P. G. Kain
Pages: 288
Age Range: 10-14

The School for CoolThe School for School is the second book in P. G. Kain's new tween series: The Social Experiments of Dorie Dilts. In this installment, budding young scientist Dorie and her theatrical best friend Dixie are both accepted to a summer program in Washington, DC: The National Academy for Gifted Youth. Dorie, in the Science Academy, participates in experiments to combat global warming, while Dixie, over in the Arts Academy, directs a production of My Fair Lady.

Dorie does miss Grant, who may or may not be her boyfriend (things are a bit ambiguous). However, she's distracted by the chance to meet her idol, Jane Goodall, if her summer's work is good enough. Instead of focusing on her project, though, Dorie gets caught up in a "social experiment." She sets out to make her lab group leader, a true science geek named Igor, cool enough to catch the attention of her attractive roommate, Tiffany. As in her previous experiment (Dumped by Popular Demand), Dorie applies the scientific method to human interactions, with comical, though often surprisingly successful, results.

I must admit that I had a harder time getting into this book than I did the first one. The Washington setting didn't feel as intimate as the more local setting of Dorie's school. I also had a problem with the Dorie of the first third of the book. She struggles with the transition from being the smartest kid in her science classes at home to being, well, average among gifted students. As a result, she basically kisses up to Igor (who has the power to ensure her meeting with Goodall), and temporarily loses her confidence. What I like about Dorie as a character for tween girls is how smart and scientifically minded she is, even when she's socially misguided. Seeing her fumble on the science side, and make a less than stellar impression on her teachers, bothered me.

However, once the Igor experiment started, and Dorie re-gained her spark, I enjoyed The School for Cool. I think that Dorie (or P. G. Kain, I suppose) has a pretty accurate view of what it takes to make someone "cool." (I'll never tell - you'll have to read the book and see if you agree), though some of the details in this example are a bit over the top. It's also nice to see the classic teen makeover story with the boy instead of the girl being the one who needs the makeover. And I continue to adore both Dorie and Dixie as characters. I'm happy just spending time with them.   

Although a bit off to the sidelines of this story, as Dorie gets wrapped up in making Igor cool, Dixie still shines. This title is a bit more overt about Dixie being gay than the first book. He's not quite dating, but he's definitely interested in a boy named Simon, who Dorie thinks might be "somebody special" for him, and acknowledges that he's not the one to ask about what makes Tiffany attractive. He's still secure in himself, down to carrying an "orange glitter gel pen" in his bag, and using it in public. Most of all, though, he's enthusiastic about his art, and unfailingly loyal to Dorie, even when she doesn't quite deserve it.

As for Dorie, who wouldn't love a character so consistent in herself? She knows that she'll never be cool, because she can't bear to break rules. She takes color-coded notes, and raises her hand in class. She makes a map on her dorm room wall plotting the coordinates of Grant, on a boat trip with his parents. When she dances, she makes up a mathematical formula for herself to follow, so that she's less nervous. And when she gets caught up in something (like the Igor experiment), she gives it her full attention, regardless of the personal cost. Here are a couple of Dorie-isms, to give you a flavor:

"All of the government buildings in D.C. seem to have large Grecian columns that reach past a few floors. There is something about the grand nature of the buildings that makes you feel empowered. I stop next to one of the massive columns and look straight up from the base. Although the column makes me feel small, it also makes me feel like I can conquer anything." (Chapter 9)

"Guys are drawn to her like a moth to flame." (Dixie)
"Actually there is an entomologist who discovered that moths are actually attracted to the candle rather than the flame, due to an infrared wavelength emitted by warm candle wax." (Chapter 14)

I think that fans of the first Dorie Dilts social experiment will enjoy this one, too (and I do recommend reading them in order, though it's not 100% essential). This is an excellent series for tween girls, those who are ready for the kind of dating that involves holding hands in the movie theater, and not too much more. (In fact, I think that Disney should snap up the rights, and make a Dorie Dilts Disney Channel franchise.) I especially recommend this title for girls who are interested in the sciences. Despite her experiments with popularity, Dorie is proud of who she is - a scientist. In short, this is an enjoyable addition to a fun series - I look forward to Dorie's further adventures.

Publisher: Aladdin
Publication Date: February 5, 2008
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the author. Quotes are from the advance copy, and may not accurately reflect the final published book.
Other Blog Reviews: See my review of the first Dorie Dilts book, Dumped by Popular Demand

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.