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Miss Popularity (Candy Apple) by Francesco…
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Cassie Knight is devastated when she moves cross-country and finds that her new schoolmates don't love her as much as her old ones do. Nevertheless, she resolves to remain true to her self and hopes to find some friends who will appreciate her for who she is.

While visiting a local library, I noticed a display with some popular series in the children's section and saw a series called "Candy Apple" books. There's a young one in my family who's an advanced reader, and I thought these books might be up her alley. I decided to check them out first before making any such recommendation and I'm certainly glad I did as this book was an absolute travesty.

The basic premise sounds all good on face value with the moral of being true to one's self, even if that means you aren't automatically popular. There are certainly admirable things about Cassie - for instance, she is very polite and considerate - and there are definitely horrible things about some of her new classmates - like how they make fun of Cassie because of her accent. But the problem is that the Cassie's "true character" is someone who is obsessed with fashion and make-up, and these are the overriding concerns in her life. At least once every couple of paragraphs, there has to be a reference to hairspray, mascara, lip gloss, manicures/pedicures, designer-name clothing and shoes, etc. Even when she gets upset about how her new classmates treat her, it isn't simply that they are rude, it's that they are un-manicured, blandly dressed, and impolite. The one person Cassie meets and becomes friendly with only catches her eye because she appears to have a bit of "fashion sense" herself.

Considering that Cassie is in the sixth grade and children usually read about kids a little older than themselves, the target audience for this book is likely girls in the third and fourth grades. With that in mind, it was just disgusting to me to read passages like this one:

"Third period was gym class. Dreaded, hated, hideous, and horrible gym class. It's not that Cassie had any problems with sweating and running and being healthy and stuff. Of course not. Duh, being healthy, like, makes you live longer. (This was not yet a Life Rule, but she realized she needed to make it one soon. She just needed to work out the exact language.) And she loved her gym outfits. Today's featured two wristbands, left arm white, right arm blue, her Grid Propel Plus Sauconys with delicious blue laces, and her peal Danskin unitard with her midnight Cobweb Crop Tie-Front Sweater and matching skirt. And matching leg warmers, of course.
But here were the things, and there a lot:
1. Getting all sweaty.
2. Getting all sweaty with other people. Especially boys. They really get all sweaty.
3. The things you have to do! Like swinging a bat, or running in circles, of the worst: throwing a ball.
4. I mean, hair!!! What's a girl supposed to do with her hair when she has, like, ten minutes to de-sweat, re-glamor, and bejewel?
4. Feeling kind of clammy and sticking for the rest of the day. So not cute."

Early on in the book, I was hoping that maybe all this over-the-top glamorization was set up so that the main character might eventually learn that being herself didn't require changing everything about her physical appearance with costly products, but nope. The book continues in the same vein throughout. The only thing that ever changes is that the main character switches from using aerosol hair spray when she realizes it's bad for the environment, opting instead for a hair spray mist.

Another passage later on highlights the problems of this book. Cassie eventually convinces her new classmates to hold a charity fashion show, and one of her nemeses joins on as a model. At the dress rehearsal, Cassie is "super-wowed by Lynn, who worked the runway better than any supermodel could hope to. She was the perfect combination of confidence and nerves, and her long legs cut perfect, sharp angles. Maybe it was time to give up on her nickname. No Nightmare could ever be so beautiful!" That's right: this book is suggesting - not very subtly at that - only ugly people can be mean while beautiful people are always good. (You'll also note from this passage how slapdash the writing here is. It's children literature so no one's expecting Dostoevsky, but ending a sentence with a preposition and using the word "perfect" twice in the same sentence is just lazy.)

So to sum up, the moral of this book is that you should be true to yourself, so long as that true self includes using designer accessories and three tons of make-up to ensure that you don't have a single blemish showing. Because beautiful automatically equals good. And that's the message we want to be sending to girls ages 8 to 12? Not in my opinion ...

Since the Candy Apple series are apparently all written by different authors, I would hope this one is anomaly. But this book included the first chapters of two other titles in the series, and they both sound almost as bad as this one. Stay away from this series if you want anything even remotely empowering for young girls. ( )
  sweetiegherkin | Mar 8, 2014 |
Reviewed by Allison Fraclose for TeensReadToo.com

Cassie Cyan Knight has got it all: popularity, awesome friends, great personality, and, most importantly, a killer fashion sense.

Even her parents are cool, which is why Cassie doesn't hold a grudge against them when they drop the bombshell. Her dad got a promotion, and, in two weeks, Cassie will be transplanted from sunny, friendly, fashionable Houston to the frigid ice storms of Maine. Cassie doesn't let it get her down, though. She's nervous, sure, but with a few encouraging words from her best friend, Cassie feels like she can tackle anything.

However, her new classmates at Oak Grove Middle School seem determined to shoot down Cassie's upbeat attitude. They're rude, they make fun of her Texas accent, and even mock her bright, happy wardrobe choices. Clearly, the population of Oak Grove Middle needs a reminder that there are fashion options outside of boots and fleece pullovers.

With the help of a kindred spirit or two, Cassie jumps right in to find her fabulous niche at Oak Grove Middle, even if it means butting heads with Mean Mary Ellen McGinty, who refuses to admit that fashion might have a place in their school.

I had a few issues with this book, mainly with the lack of flaws in the main character and the unbelievable circumstances of there being absolutely no fashion clique at Oak Grove. One other major issue comes from the heavy name-dropping of products and companies in the fashion industry. They are so peppered throughout that sometimes it feels like one big advertisement.

Be that as it may, though, Cassie's attitude throughout her trials was refreshing, and could serve as a good pep talk to those younger girls who might need reassurance that they are in charge of their own happiness. ( )
  GeniusJen | Oct 14, 2010 |
This is a series of books. It talks about how its not easy growing up or being a girl. The girls go through friendships and crushes. Cute book for 3rd grade girls to relate to!
  chron002 | Apr 9, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 043988814X, Paperback)

Candy Apple is a fresh, fun take on fiction for girls: a new line of single titles with pep and pizzazz targeted at the solid middle-grade reader.

Meet Cassie Knight. Bubbly, stylish, and super-friendly, she's the fashion queen at her Texas school. But when her father's job moves the family to cold, snowy Maine, Cassie's in for a huge culture shock. At her new prep school, the students are prim and proper, and worst of all, they don't find Cassie as fabulous as she knows she is! Then Cassie comes up with a brilliant idea for the school fundraiser. If she can pull it off, she may just become Miss Popularity again . . . but if not, is she doomed to remain friendless forever?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:49 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Cassie Knight is bubbly, stylish, and super-friendly, the fashion queen at her Texas school. When her father moves the family to Maine, Cassie's in for a huge culture shock.

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