Monday, October 27, 2014

Middle School Monday: Popular: A Memoir by Maya Van Wagenen

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Popular:  A Memoir by Maya Van Wagenen is one of my favorite books that I have read this year.  Stuck on one the lowest rungs of her middle school's social ladder, Maya decides to try an experiment.  Her father had found a vintage 1950's guide to teen popularity (written by Betty Cornell) at a thrift store, and Maya rediscovered it helping her mom clean out her dad's office.  Her mom had the idea of Maya following the advice and then writing about the experience.  Maya was not convinced until she read the following passage:

You will only make the situation worse if you take a negative attitude, if you shrug your shoulders and say "Well, after all, who cares?"  Basically somebody does care.  You care.  You want to have a crowd to pal around with, a few exciting dates, and at least one boy who thinks you are about the most terrific female ever.  And if you say you don't you are really only fooling yourself.  You are certainly not fooling others.

Somehow, this book published over 60 years ago made Maya embark on a grand experiment.  She tried diets, did the prescribed exercises, wore a girdle, used Vaseline as eye shadow, brushed her hair 100 strokes each night, and more.  She writes her own "popularity tips" in each chapter.  In the end, Maya defines her own popularity, gains confidence, and makes a new circle of friends.  You will grow with Maya as she navigates eighth grade, and by the end of the book, you will be cheering for her.  Recommended for middle school, but anyone who has felt like they did not fit in, or likes a story about an underdog will appreciate this book. 

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