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on April 15, 2014
This review appears on Happy Indulgence at happyindulgencebooks.com

Popular is an incredible, hilarious, and achingly honest and emotional memoir about popularity. It asks and answers, what is the definition of being popular? Is it to have the most friends, be the most respected and known at school, is it to be the prettiest or the one that is best at sports?

Maya Van Wagenen’s journey is a real life social experiment and she’s written her day to day accounts of following a vintage guide to popularity - Betty Cornell’s Teenage Popularity Guide. Each chapter, she follows a different part of the Guide, and slowly works her way up to the major changes she’ll have to make. It’s sprinkled with charming photos of her and her family, and Maya’s honesty, wit and bravery shines through her words and her photos.

At the start, Maya is an insecure teenager at the bottom of her schools’ social ladder. She feels fat and ugly and gets teased and bullied by countless people at school. Seeing her transformation into a confident, self-assured girl who makes a mark on her peers was extraordinary. From changing her hair everyday, to wearing vintage 1950s gear to school, to sitting at different tables dominated by the different subgroups at school, nothing is out of bounds in her quest for popularity. No matter how embarrassing it is, Maya is to be admired for her bravery and devotion to Betty Cornell’s advice.

The glimpses of the rough neighbourhood on the Mexican border that Maya lived in were fascinating, as a world so different from mine. Mexican drug lords making a deal? No problem. Pregnant teens and gangster members at her school? Sure. The school under threat from an armed assailant? Just another walk in the park.

This book made me laugh (Hobbit monologue anyone), it made me cry, and it made me root for Maya and hope for the best. I absolutely LOVED this book for the inspirational message behind it. It helps us understand that things are never what we perceive them to be and if we take time to find out about the wonderful people around us, we will be rewarded with the same respect and consideration too.

Maya’s journey was an inspirational one, and her achievement of being a published author at 15 is amazing. Her memoir hits home that no matter how impossible the task is, if you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything.

For anyone who ever felt unsure of themselves, this book is for you.
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on April 17, 2014
I bought this book after seeing an online interview with the author (Kathy and Hoda?) - I was curious, so I downloaded the Kindle sample and was smitten. This girl can write! This is a fun book - I read it in a night - and enjoyed it so much. I can't wait to see what the future holds for author Maya Van Wagenen - I am pretty sure this is the first of many great books she will write. Looking forward to her next book. Oh, and in the meantime, I might just have to read Betty Cornell's original book that inspired Maya. :-)
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on May 10, 2014
I belong to a Young Adult book group (I'm just about to turn 50 but I still love reading kid lit and YA novels... good ones). And this is a GREAT one. My friend who has a 14 year old daughter told me about this book so I looked into it. Love that it's a memoir. Love the theme and I wish I had this book when I was in school. I suggested it to our book group and we decided to all read it. I thought I'd read it and pass it along to my friend's daughter, but I think I'll have to keep it. I'll definitely would enjoy reading it again. I'll buy another copy to give to my friend's daughter. Again, I can't tell you how delighted I am with the whole thing. Her awesomely supportive family, the whole idea of how she followed Betty's 1950's book to the letter (vaseline on the eyelids and wearing panty girdles! Who knew they still even made panty girdles!), and Maya's utter bravery. Wow. I could not have done that at her age. I'm not sure I could do it now. What I didn't realize when I first heard about the book is that she told no one that's what she was doing, following the advice of this 1950's book. No one except her family knew, not even her best friend Kenzie. Where it REALLY got me was the month of April's theme: "A Popular Attitude". And then everything starts tying together. It's a wonderful lesson for anyone at any age. No spoilers here (that's a pet peeve of mine) but you will NOT be disappointed. I am so thrilled for Maya. It was a wonderful read. And such a satisfying ending. There's not one little thing I didn't adore. Can't wait for the movie. Also, kudus go out to whoever designed and illustrated the book cover. Love. Love. Love.
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on April 17, 2014
I'm giving this to my soon-to- be-middleschooler. Very honest, sweet and I can relate.Heck I'm still a geek:) Great read.
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on April 23, 2014
I saw Maya on the Today show and was so intrigued with her idea that I just had to read this book. I was really impressed by her bravery and innovation. The book is well written and really clever. I'm a grown up but was struck by the notion that these lessons really apply in all stages of life. This is a book that all ages can enjoy. I can't wait to see the movie!
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on April 17, 2014
This lovely book was so honest about the perils of middle childhood. The author writes with such a lack of self consciousness and without a touch of guile. Her sincerity gives the book flavor.
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on April 18, 2014
I read it before I gave it to my daughter. I did laugh out loud, it brings us all back to 8th grade. It's very relate-able. And as you read, you think. It's often said that we learn through our children. This puts the things into perspective in a fun way. Great book for any middle school girl (regardless of their "popularity"). Update - my daughter is 80% through and loves the way Maya writes, she doesnt always read what I recommend but this time she did!
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on April 18, 2014
I couldn't help falling in love with Maya and her family as she goes on this "journey" to be popular. She has a way of telling a story that makes you feel like you are experiencing it right along with her. I laughed at her witty, sarcastic comments and felt her sadness when she experienced pain. It has been a treat to read her honest, heartfelt memoir.
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on April 18, 2014
I read this fantastic book in one sitting, I could not put it down! Such timeless lessons throughout. This young author has maturity and insight beyond her years. The book has humor and the glimpses into her journey are relate-able to young people and adults alike. I truly think that every adolescent should read this book.
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on April 18, 2014
Wonderful brave teen voice. I went to middle school and high school with her dad, and I must say, the apple does not fall far from the tree, or in this case, the guy wearing a bowtie, vintage golf knickers, and army boots.
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