Monday, November 16, 2015

YA Book Pick: Popular: A Memoir by Maya Van Wagenen

Once a month we choose an outstanding YA book to review.  We want to spotlight books of interest to aspiring writers, as well as highlight some of our favorite books and authors.

This month's book is Popular: A Memoir by Maya Van Wagenen.  Maya is a teen author and thus has a refreshing point-of-view.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Stuck near the bottom of the social ladder at "pretty much the lowest level of people at school who aren't paid to be here," Maya has never been popular.  But before starting eight grade, she decides to begin a unique social experiment:  spend the school year following a 1950s popularity guide, written by former teen model Betty Cornell.  The real-life results are hilarious, painful, and filled with unexpected surprises - but through it all, Maya's positive approach helps her to reveal a new understanding of self-confidence, kindness, and acceptance.

First line: "School is the armpit of life," my best friend Kenzie once told me.  Amen.

Highlights:  The book is fun, entertaining, and hilarious.  Maya has such a strong voice and really opens up to her readers and pretty much holds nothing back.  In addition, to have such an authentic, raw quality, the book also has an even stronger message on what it means to be "popular."  Some critics doubt that a teenage writer could be this wise and write so well, but then what published book hasn't been reshaped and polished by countless helpful hands?!  Don't most books pass through a series of Beta Readers, agents, and editors?  Whatever the case, this book does shine - its both funny and insightful. 

Notes for Writers:  Voice. Definitely the voice.  Maya also provides a great message along with her story, but this book's strongest attribute is the voice. 

A great read for:  YA and tween girls and their parents.  Boys would learn much from the book as well, but some of the subjects are just too girlie.  I would say this is a good book for girls entering Junior High and even High School.  Wish I could have had a book like this for when my eldest went to school.  At our school, the "popular" girls were asked to buy Michael Kors purses and carry their lunches in brown paper bags.  This book will help to put some of this into perspective. 

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