Popular (a memoir) by Maya Van Wagenen was probably one of the most inspirational reads I’ve tried in a long time. A huge plus, it’s also a quick one! I finished this in roughly 4 hours so “not having time” isn’t an excuse for not reading this. Also, since it’s a memoir, it’s a true story! Which made me relate to it even more.
Popular is written by 15-year-old sophomore, Maya, who recently moved from Brownsville, Texas to rural Georgia. The memoir begins with her cleaning out her house and finding an old book her dad picked up from the thrift store a while ago. The book, “Betty Cornell’s Teenage Popularity Guide”, was written by teen model Betty Cornell in the 1950s!
Since Maya was a “social outcast” at her school, her mom suggested she follow the advice of a 50s teen during her 8th-grade year and see what happens. During the year, Maya documents her classmates’ reactions as well as how she feels after trying Betty’s tips. To give you a feel for things, Betty Cornell’s wardrobe staples were girdles, pantyhoses, several long skirts and a simple string of pearls. As Maya moves throughout the book’s chapters and progresses through the school year, she slowly transforms from an awkward geek to a confidant, happy, young woman. Of course, she figures out the real definition of popular along the way and to her shock, it was not at all what she expected it to be.
I honestly loved this book and related a lot to it. I know popularity is a major cause of self-esteem issues in a lot of teens so this book is super relevant. The fact that it was written by a 15-year-old, who uses words like “er” and “ew” also makes it so much more lighthearted and sweet. Maya’s commentary is very amusing and will never, ever bore you. I give this book 9.5/10 stars because I wish she could’ve gone into a bit more detail about Betty’s book’s content but other than that, I give it my highest recommendation to my fellow girlies who are going through that awkward phase. This book will make you laugh, groan, smile, cry, you name it. Have fun reading!!