A cute and well-written teen memoir for those kids—the majority of us, it would seem—who never managed to achieve popularity in school. Maya is a slightly plump, eye-glass wearing smarty to whom celebrity status, beautiful clothes, makeup and jewelry are someone else’s domain. She and her best friend Kenzie occupy the status below the school geeks and goths, according to her list which boasts the volleyball girls and football boys at the top of the heap. She is tired of being on the outs but hasn’t a clue what to do about it.
Fortunately, she has smart parents who love her and recognize her yearning for acceptance—including by boys!– but not at any price. And so begins a unique social experiment that reflects her courage and uniqueness. Maya’s dad hands her a thrift store find, a 1950s guide to popularity written by a former model, and she decides to implement the antiquated advice—including wearing pearls, girdles, white gloves and pancake makeup—in stages over the course of a year. Braving scorn and mockery, even from her best friend, only stiffens Maya’s spine, and as she plows her way through hostile waters, she discovers what makes for real popularity. It is the self-confidence to like yourself, stay the course, and be true to what makes you special.
A little saccharine at times, funny at others, and definitely for the teens among us, “Popular” is nonetheless a delightful little trip down memory lane for the rest of us who were forced to tread the margins of the teenage social order far too long. Good for you, Maya.