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Outside Rules

Attacked by norms, standards, and expectations, kids all over the world frantically

search for self-actualization and definition of whom they are outside whom the

world shapes them to be. Outside Rules by Claire Robson highlights case study

examples of youth breaking the norms and discovering themselves in the process.

Conformity is an issue that every child goes through during the battle of answering

the “who am I?” question. Regardless of cultural, racial, and gender backgrounds,

youth define themselves not by which norms and standards they follow, but by

which norms and standards they defy.

Robson does an excellent job compiling stories to introduce the idea of

defying conformity, covering many groups of youth and their decisions and

situations that distinguish them from a homogenous population. In explaining these

short stories and adding critical analysis, Outside Rules takes a journey through the

minds and thought processes of youth attempting to do what they typically fear;

standing out among a group.

Outside Rules is a compilation of short stories about nonconformist youth

edited by Claire Robson. Published in 2007 by Persea Books, Inc. Outside Rules is

207 pages with another 15 pages of analysis. The stories in this book are non-fiction

short stories about nonconformist youth from various backgrounds. The theme of

this book is embracing diversity and not always fitting in with a specific group.

Celebrating differences is emphasized throughout every story and norms are broken

by all the children mentioned, creating a strong feeling of power and resiliency
when faced with adversity. I evaluated this book because conformity and the

psychology behind conforming have always fascinated me. Specifically, conforming

youth has been a topic I have been interested in researching and this compilation of

short stories of nonconformist youth gave me great insight into these kids mindsets

and outlook on conformity.

Outside Rules is a collection of fourteen stories about teens that do not fit in

with societal norms. They are not weird nor are they victims. These youth explore

aspects of life through imagination, critical thinking, problem solving, and a whole

lot of courage. In doing so, they discover parts of themselves that they never knew

were there. These youth take challenges and potential tragedies and turn them into

celebrations; all while creating life-changing friendships with kids they would have

never imagined associating with.

Shala is a young girl who begins wearing her Muslim headscarf that signifies

a girl’s passage into womanhood. Upon arriving at school with the new headscarf,

she found herself shunned and criticized by students in her class, including her

friends. These kids stereotyped Shala in abusive and demeaning ways that made

Shala never want to step inside school again. Shala felt ashamed in wearing

something that should be celebrated. In the midst of all the criticism, Shala meets a

young boy named Taylor who at the time, seemed to be the least likely to truly

understand the nature of Shala’s situation. Taylor is not of the same religion as Shala

and is not familiar with Muslim beliefs, however he is familiar with the idea of

respect, and cultural appropriation. Taylor stood up for Shala when she could not do
it herself, and in the process, helped Shala find her own voice and the confidence to

share it. Tension rose and ended in a big fight where Taylor put it all on the line in

protecting Shala and her newfound confidence. Taylor went against everything

society had taught him against Muslims, and made a life-long friend in the process.

Danny did not have the best circumstance. His sister ran away from home,

leaving Danny in a state of depression he did not feel he could escape. Danny faded

into oblivion as his voice and personality disappeared. At the peak of Danny’s

depression, he is paired up in school to do a project with a very confident,

outspoken girl named Angela. She was known around the school as being an

outspoken punk rocker, which was the polar opposite of the insecure wallflower

Danny was becoming. Angela took quick notice of Danny’s depression and lack of

voice and took it upon herself to return his fun-loving personality that existed

before his sister ran away. Their newfound friendship grew even stronger as “the

two of [them] held on tight” (75) to the project they had created, and the bond they

had formed.

All fourteen stories follow a similar plot to the two previously mentioned.

Youth go out of their way and immerse themselves with other youth of different

backgrounds and find a greater appreciation for life in the process. I found this book

easy to read because it related so closely to my own life. I found myself making

personal connections to every kid that I read about, regardless of race, gender, or

cultural background. It was very interesting to see how kids like me reacted in

situations that put them outside of their comfort zones. The book was very strong in
a sense that it provided an undying sense of hope for youth and their potential to

discover their world, and themselves. It gave very relative case studies and stories

that people of all backgrounds can relate to and draw conclusions from. One

weakness is the stories were not long enough to go into very specific detail. This is

often a weakness of short story collections. I was wishing for more analysis and

details about the stories themselves. Many stories ended without giving a

conclusion or aftermath of these friendships and nonconformist youth. This book

kept me turning pages and never left me bored or disappointed. The beauty of it is

the stories are applicable to all walks of life. Youth can directly relate to it, and

adults can learn more about their children in reading their stories. Outside

Rules applies best to students and kids around the same age of the kids in the

stories. I know that I was able to pull so much of this information into my own life,

and I have no doubt that other youth would be able to do the same.