5 stars · nonfiction · young adult

Popular by Mara Van Wagenen


Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek 

author : maya van magenen

pages : [hardcover] 272

memorable quote This is the time to remember that I’m the protagonist in my own story, facing every challenge with grace and wit.

summary :

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.

review :

I can’t recall the last time I’ve willingly picked up a memoir. Something about this interesting premise, combined with a really gorgeous cover, had me picking this up at the library one day. I’d seen a few people with this book but had never heard any opinions about it so I was completely going in blind. And I loved it.

Maya writes so honestly about her experience and I love how even in the darkest moments, times she must have hated living through, she was able to put a positive spin on them while writing. Her humor and wit truly carry the book because even something as novel as old advice taken literally in the modern day wouldn’t be able to interest me if there wasn’t good writing to accompany it. I think that Maya is going to grow into a fine writer-she’s only fifteen! While I can’t wait to see what else she might come up with, I wouldn’t mind her trying more social experiments so we can read about her antics.

Something that was also fun was the communication between Betty Cornell and Maya. I bet the former never thought her popularity guide would be put to use sixty years after it’d been published! I loved hearing about the two reaching out to one another. It was another glimpse into what has changed in the modern world as well as what has essentially remained the same about society . . and high school.

What I really loved about Popular was its overall message. Maya is an average girl and while she perhaps didn’t achieve the kind of popularity that is perpetuated in the media as well as in the halls of a high school, she learns that most people personally have different ideas of what popularity is. Did she manage to achieve what the 1950s popularity guide was trying to train her for? Well, you’ll need to pick up this teen’s memoir to find out.

This was a quick, fun read that I really wouldn’t mind picking up again! I highly recommend it.

5/5 stars



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