Tween Town, U.S.A.

Author Linda Perlstein exposes the secret lives of middle schoolers

What makes a middle schooler tick? Linda Perlstein, education writer for the Washington Post, decided to find out. With the dedication of an anthropologist, she moved to Columbia, Md., an economically mixed, multiethnic community. For almost a year she lived half a mile from Wilde Lake Middle School and embedded herself in the lives of its students. The result is Not Much Just Chillin': The Hidden Lives of Middle Schoolers (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). TIME talked with Perlstein:

What was your method for getting to know the kids?

I went to anything they did, such as swim practice. I sat on...

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