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Popular: How a Geek in Pearls Discovered the Secret to Confidence

by Maya Van Wagenen

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2015 Rating System: 5

I really enjoyed this book. I spend every moment since opening the book reading it. It was that good. It was also a let down in some ways as well. I was hoping it would make me really cry. I did shed a few tears, but after a YouTuber I follow talked about it, I was expecting a bit more. But hey, I have to take it for what it's worth.

The book is written in a series of diary entries, but there is enough dialogue to make it feel like a book. I generally hate non-fiction and find it extremely boring. Maya's book is far from that. It's real life, but it's entertaining. There are a few surprises as well. There's a death, a school lock down, and drug wars going on on the other side of the boarder. You also get to look forward to finding out "how to be popular" through Maya's experience and through the tips of the 1950's book she uses as a guide.

Why some of the practices are a bit shallow, like doing hair and makeup and dressing a certain way, others apply to anyone. The most meaningful chapter to me was the one where Maya had to break out of her shell and sit with everyone in the cafeteria. I especially enjoyed the reaction she got from the popular kids.

I moved around a lot when I was in school, and I learned to adapt pretty easily, but I never considered myself popular. I used the term "floater", which basically meant I hung out with everyone. I was in the marching band (as a flag girl), theater, would have been in choir but it conflicted with band as theater, youth group, FCCLA, FCA, and I was an honors student who loved to hang out with friends in the library (and play chess). One time I got kicked off of the guidance office for having too many people come in to hang out with me. For the most part, I was comfortable around everyone except the most popular people. It wasn't until after high school while I was in the Navy that I realize "cool" people actually liked me.

In Maya's case, she's not a floater, she is an outcast. She's in choir, but feels kind of like I did around the most popular people. Throughout the book she learns to really step out of her shell and meet new people in a way that I always wished I did but never had the guts to. Not only that, but she does it wearing girdles on her "quadruple" bum and Vaseline on her eyes. It's hard enough to try to get others to accept you when you are in clothes you like. Doing what she did was super ballsy. I honestly don't think I could have dressed like that. I was an education major for a while and was dressed more professionally than the teachers I was observing, so I know a little about how she must have felt, but as a student it would have been even more embarrassing.

Part of this book made me think of the MTV show called MADE, where teens have a dream to be something, like homecoming queen, and these professionals come in and train them to achieve their dream. Those kids had a difficult time with trainers backing them. Maya did it all with just a book.

Now I will say, Maya has an awesome family dynamic. They aren't without their struggles, but they really love each other and you can tell through the pictures inside of the book and through her writing. I really enjoyed the mom, who was getting up early every morning to do Maya's hair, or was taking her clothes shopping at the thrift store.

Maya and her dad's relationship when it came to her crush on Ethan was pretty comical. I also loved Maya's favorite teacher. We all need supporters like that. Oh, and the fortune cookie thing, now that was just spooky accurate. Throw away the 8 ball and order some Chinese takeout.

Her best friend Kenzie was pretty realistic. I don't think Maya sugarcoated any of her negative reactions. I liked the other students as well. They were flawed but came around in the end.

So what really surprised me? The writing! It was really hard to believe a 15 year old wrote it. There were a few words I had to think about for a second, and I'm a summa cum laude graduate. Either Maya is extremely intelligent (her maturity level supports this), or she had a really good editor who wanted the writing to appeal to an older audience. Either way, Maya did an excellent job. The entries way perfect in length and quality of content. Everything was nice and concise.

As far as usefulness goes, this book is a wonderful addition to anyone's collection. It a read-once-and-shelve book for me, but I want to hold onto it and let my future kids read it. Maya is an inspiration, not only due to her experiment with popularity but also because she wrote a book at 15. It's a best seller! I wish I were that talented. I'm sure she has no issue with popularity now!

Anyway, if you want to try out something a bit different, I highly recommend that you read this book.

PS. I cried when her teacher died, when she was talking about her deceased sister, and when she realized her friend might only think she's beautiful because of his autism (plus a few random moments)
  ZetherBooks | Jun 15, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0147512549, Paperback)

New York Times Bestseller

A breakout teen author explores the true meaning of popularity and how to survive middle school in this hysterically funny, touchingly honest contemporary memoir. 

“I was inspired by [Maya's] journey and made a point of saving a copy of ‘Popular’ for my sister, who starts middle school this fall. Maybe if I had read it when I was her age, it could have saved me from a world of hurt, or at least put that world in perspective.” —Maude Apatow, New York Times Book Review

Can curlers, girdles, Vaseline, and a strand of pearls help a shy girl become popular?
Maya Van Wagenen is about to find out. 


Stuck near the bottom of the social ladder at “pretty much the lowest level of people at school who aren’t paid to be here,” Maya has never been popular. But before starting eighth grade, she decides to begin a unique social experiment: spend the school year following a 1950s popularity guide, written by former teen model Betty Cornell.

The real-life results are hilarious, painful, and filled with unexpected surprises. Told with humor and grace, Maya’s journey offers readers of all ages a thoroughly contemporary example of kindness and self-confidence, along with a better understanding of what it means to be popular.

 

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 23 Jul 2015 11:56:16 -0400)

Stuck at the bottom of the social ladder at "pretty much the lowest level of people at school who aren't paid to be here," Maya Van Wagenen decided to begin a unique social experiment: spend the school year following a 1950s popularity guide, written by former teen model Betty Cornell. The real-life results are painful, funny, and include a wonderful and unexpected surprise.… (more)

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