Well, that is exactly what Janice Wills, an amateur anthropologist describes in this thought-provoking novel. Janice is a self-taught anthropologist, who is conducting research on the students and people in the Southern town of Melva, North Carolina. She became an anthropologist to distance herself from others, but this has led her to become a person she doesn’t want to be, someone who makes fun of the flaws of other people. But through the events leading up to the Melva Miss Livermush Pageant, the rite of passage for all girls in the town, Janice experiences a welcome change in attitude.
This change was my favorite part of the novel. Often, it is hard to see how we appear to other people. In Janice’s mind, everything she said was from the point of view of “anthropology research.” But as her friends point out, her words are hostile. These comments give Janice an opportunity to reflect on who she is and who she wants to be, ultimately causing her to change. I loved the description of how she viewed other people after she changed, because it made me feel optimistic about the world.
Though this novel was a very simple read, it did make me think. A lot of points that Janice makes are very accurate. For instance, the way that people from different levels in the hierarchy treat each other not only connects to other literature on the topic, but also to some of my own experiences. If you’re looking for a short book to read, I definitely recommend checking this out. Though the pages fly by, the themes remain relevant long after the book ends.
– Leila S., 10th grade
The Rites and Wrongs of Janice Wills is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Public Library.