Listening to the voluble and repetitive verbal traffic of teen girls is not for the faint of heart. After all, who over 25 really wants to be initiated into the ways of the adolescent iPhone? Yet Ms. Sales doesn’t mind listening—and she’s exquisitely unobtrusive as she does it. Conversations that are not safe for adults seem to open like apps under her fingertips. She has sophisticated methods of infiltration, a willingness to stick with infinite scrolls of text threads and mobile chat, and a high tolerance for amateur pornography.
Sales' steady string of vignettes can be numbing at times, with one girl after another talking about boys asking them for 'nudes,' the lack of romance in a culture that revolves around 'hook-ups,’ and the pressure to constantly project a virtually approved image of perfection. But that repetition, interspersed with many young women’s poignant reflections, powerfully conveys how pervasive these experiences and feelings are among American girls.
This book does an unnerving job of depicting the highly sexualized environment teenagers inhabit today on the web and the social anxiety created by spending hours a day online. But American Girls is hardly groundbreaking in its revelations ... Sadly, many of Ms. Sales’s common-sense observations are undermined by her lapses into psychobabble.