Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Book Review: Popular by Maya Van Wagenen (no spoilers)

Book: Popular
Author: Maya Van Wagenen
Publication: April 15th, 2014
Source: Local Library
Read: July 8th-12th, 2014
Summary (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.

My Thoughts:

This book was so much fun to read and such an inspiration to every single teenager and adult out there. Maya set out to test Betty Cornell's Popularity Guide to see if it would help her become popular in her own school. Maya learns so much through this experience and learns a new definition of being Popular. 

Popularity has never been in my vocabulary. Popularity is more of a state of mind than a status. My definition of Popular is a person that has a lot of friends and is usually not a very nice person. Maya begins the book by giving her school's popularity scale which makes me think back to my high school days. I don't think our popularity scale was as drastic as Maya's since a lot of people that played sports were either in band or chorus, but if I had to define popularity at my high school I would say that the athletes (boys or girls) were on the top, followed by teachers kids (small school problems)/FCCLA/FFA members, then there were the band and chorus people, followed by the honor students (which again were also in sports and some could be ranked on the top), then there was the people that weren't in anything (my group), and then the weird students that were in to pokemon and graphic novels. I would say with my small high school there was a mixture of people in each group, but there were cliches. Maya talks about being afraid to talk to certain groups such as the goth art chicks and I have to say I have never felt that way. I graduated from a class of 100 and I had grew up with almost everybody I graduated with so there were people that I rarely talked to, but I could strike up a conversation with anybody in my class no matter the popularity scale. There was a lot of favoritism especially when it came to scholarships senior year chosen by the school board or the teachers and the scholarships usually went to the same select few people that were either teachers kids or in every activity and sport you can think of. 

Maya's first few chapters were small things such as wearing makeup, changing hairstyles, improving posture, and dressing differently. I have to commend Maya for the things she was willing to do. The clothes she wore to school are things I would never pick out in a million years. I have to say how surprised I am that Betty Cornell's book is so relevant in today's world still. Then as the school year went on Maya's tasks got more difficult such as the chapter where she had to talk to new people. She sat at a different lunch table every day which would be so hard. Although I said earlier that I could talk to anybody in my class I still had a group of friends that I always sat with and we never mixed lunch tables. They tried it in middle school with us once where we were assigned lunch tables for a day. It was awkward to say the least because none of us really wanted to give up that time with our friends to take to different people. It feels like when she sat with random people that the status quo of the high school structure was broken. She was brave for doing it. I don't think I would be able to sit with some of my high school classmates. 

I was never popular nor will I ever be popular. To be honest it was never something that bothered me in high school. I used to make a goal every year in Middle School to make one new friend and for all of middle school it happened. By my Junior Year of High School we didn't have a whole lot of new people and everybody had set friend groups so I would say that Junior and Senior Year were more for maintaining the friendships I had created rather than making new friends. The thing is I'm a very talkative person once you get to know me, but initially I am shy and it is hard to get me to open up right away. Throughout elementary I had a hard time keeping friends and making friends, which is why I made an effort to get over my shyness in middle school. I have come a long ways, but I am not there yet. I still want to say things to new people and I decide not to because of my shyness. I have also opened up to many people because I have decided to talk to them. I learned that being shy is hard so I don't want to be shy, but for me being a social butterfly isn't easy either. It takes time for me to get to know a person before you are going to know a whole lot about me. I think I never cared about Popularity because I was happy where I was at. I liked my group of friends. They were the people I connected to. To go up on the popularity scale meant ditching those friends for people I had little in common with. I think that is why I decided that Popularity wasn't necessarily important to me. I graduated high school being the nice, quiet girl to most of my class. My friends knew me differently of course.

Maya did something I think few people including myself would ever have the guts to do and for that she is an inspiration. As for you the person reading this I guarantee there is some connection with yourself you will make in this book. Whether you deemed yourself popular or unpopular there is something for everybody in this book. I think at one point or another we all struggled to fit in. Self Confidence means everything to feeling beautiful and confident in your happiness. If your reading this post please do yourself a favor and read Maya's inspiring novel about her new definition to being Popular. 

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