Popular Review

Title: Popular
Author: Maya Van Wagenen
Publisher: Dutton Books
Genre: Memoir 

Blurb: (from goodreads) A touchingly honest, candidly hysterical memoir from breakout teen author Maya Van Wagenen 

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. Can curlers, girdles, Vaseline, and a strand of pearls help Maya on her quest to be popular? 

The real-life results are painful, funny, and include a wonderful and unexpected surprise—meeting and befriending Betty Cornell herself. Told with humor and grace, Maya’s journey offers readers of all ages a thoroughly contemporary example of kindness and self-confidence.

Me: The concept itself didn't really interest me at first, but I'd seen it at a lot of bookstores and the fact that it was written by a fifteen year old really intrigued me. 

The Ups: First...the cover. If you read the book, you find out she is basing her popularity experiment on a 1950s popularity guide, and I think that the cover reflects the colors and cuteness of that time period and the modern teenage life perfectly. 
I think that if this book had been a novel, and written in fiction about a girl who went through this, I would not have enjoyed it at all. I would have groaned and moaned about how cliche it was. But since it genuinely happened, and I could feel the sincerity of Maya, I found myself laughing and cringing along with her. 
I think that what really brought the book to life was the fact that I could really feel Maya through her writing. I think that the entire book was written with very strong voice, and I never got tired of Maya and what she thought. I was always intrigued by her stories, and wanted to be her friend. And I think I really liked her personality. She was someone I would want to be friends with in real life. 

The Downs: I guess the overall message, that popularity isn't just about what you wear or whatever, and that it also means having people like you and caring for them, was incredibly sweet but again...a bit cliche. A lot of memoirs have really lasting impressions on me, but the message was just something that has been overused. 

Overall: A cute story with a great narrator, but we've seen the concept before.

Rating: 4 kisses! 


  1. I had heard a bit about this book, but I never stopped to find out what it was about until now - and it sounds pretty fun! The message isn't anything new, but the 50s popularity guide is original enough to get me interested. Especially since the author is 15 (how amazing!), I might have to give Popular a shot. Thanks for putting this title on my radar!

    1. You're welcome! I really hope you enjoy it, it was a very cute read.

  2. That wasn't really the message I got from this book. I think it was the fact that EVERYONE thinks they don't fit in. That everyone feels like an outcast. Which, for me, is less cliche than what it means to be popular.

    1. I can definitely see how that message was portrayed. I just feel like the whole becoming popular thing was something I'd seen a lot of.

    2. True. Books about popularity seem to get repetitive. I think this was a little less cliche about it being that it was Maya realizing it all, and not just an author trying to get a message across.