5 questions with Micol Ostow, author of the new YA novel Mean Girls

In Celebration of Mean Girls Day (#MeanGirlsDay) and the new YA novel Mean Girls (#MeanGirlsBook) we sat down with YA author Micol Ostow for a quick Q&A!

Tell us a little bit about yourself as a high school student.

I went to a very small school. There were only 60 kids in my graduating class! It was an intense, prep-school environment, and we were all very focused on academics. It wasn't uncommon to have the same teacher multiple years in a row, which meant that we had the advantage of being very familiar with each other. We often joked that we felt very sequestered (like Cady from Mean Girls, before she got to North Shore High School!), but the truth is, it was very comfortable. We weren't very cliquey—there weren't enough of us to be—and we were all very involved in all extracurricular activities. For instance, I was on yearbook committee, the school newspaper, the literary magazine, student council, and believe it or not, I was also a cheerleader! It was a strange, delightful little bubble to be in.

In Mean Girls, Ms. Norbury has a very hands-on role in helping guide Cady back to who she actually is and the things she truly loves, for example, math. Growing up, did you have a teacher who you can point to who played a similar role in your life?

My 9th grade English teacher really pushed us and indulged my interest in writing long, dry term papers on gothic horror (I actually also write horror and thrillers, too). He let me bring in examples of literary devices from my home reading, which often included Stephen King. My 10th grade English teacher happily read all of my short stories, even the ones that weren't assigned. And my AP Social Studies teacher was the first person in my life who helped me see history in a larger context, and not just as a list of names and dates.

What was your favorite subject in school?

English (if it wasn’t completely obvious already) was always my favorite subject! I was always a writer. That said, I never imagined I'd be a published author. I still can't believe that I get to do what I always wanted to do.

Can you tell us what you learned from your research into the movie and into high school life in general while working on this book?

I think what's so remarkable about Mean Girls is how consistently resonant and relevant it is. High school is such a battleground for identity and self-discovery, and even those of us with the best of intentions can sometimes stomp on others in the course of our own quests. Obviously the movie is snarky and quotable and tons of fun, but its inherent message of "try[ing] to solve the problem that's in front of you" as opposed to spending time tearing others down is so crucial, especially for young women. 

If you could give any advice to high school-aged Micol, what would you tell her?

  1. Someday this pain will be useful to you.
  2. You are drinking an unreasonable amount of coffee for someone your age.
  3. Let's talk about that [New] Jersey hair.