Thursday, October 30, 2014


Maya Van Wagenen

Trigger warnings for death, drug and alcohol mentions, and bullying

Before the beginning of her eighth grade year, Maya Van Wagenen discovers a book in the back of her closet. It's from the 1950's and is titled Betty Cornell's Teenage Popularity Guide. Being on the lowest rung of the social ladder and not having much to lose, she decides to run a social experiment. Every month she'll obey a chapter from Betty Cornell's book, down to wearing long skirts and girdles. 

Behold my horrid summary of a great book. Instead of cold sociological reviews that try to explain that we're popular because we need to mate (to psychologists- this may surprise you, but Freud wasn't some great insight), it peels back what it's actually like, from a real person's perspective, to try and attain popularity.

I hate to use 'back of the book quotes' language, but the book was poignant. And funny, and weird, and worth a read.

The book isn't completely about the fight for popularity. It talks about the other things that happen in Maya's life, things that ultimately do affect her and how she acts. She learns from her experience. It totally brings me back to 8th grade. I'd been trying to forget that, but okay.

 One issue, though, was that it occasionally pushed the 'unrelated but important' part of non-popularity related things. The part where they gave her little brother "the talk" just seemed sort of unnecessary. But it's kind of hard to tell where to draw the line between frivolous and there for enjoyment. Ah, the troubles of non-fiction.

It's amazing to see what does and doesn't work 60-ish years after the popularity guide was written. Pearls- yay. Cardigans and long skirts- nay.Vaseline on eyelids-maybe. And there's so much detail! She made notes throughout the experiment and was writing the book as it happened, so I guess that explains it, but still. Woo hoo for not being vague.

The point of the book is something that I think is good to know, not just be told. Beauty is on the inside. Okay, so you've heard it a thousand times. But to have actually shown is so much better. I can't try and explain why. Point is, read the book. It's a good book.

Also. Even in non-fiction you can't escape romance. At least it wasn't overwhelming.

(Pathetic review five hours late, but whatever.)

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