BOOK REVIEWS

Popular: How a Geek in Pearls Discovered the Secret to Confidence Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2017-05-31 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 165 user ratings
ISBN:0147512549
LANGUAGE:English

" Such a cute and inspiring read while we follow Maya's journey on becoming popular. I would highly recommend it! " said.

" perfect re-read before school starts " said.

" 3 1/2. Darling. I love Maya's bravery and the things she learned about true popularity. " said.

"Maya Van Wagenen is an inspiration to young girls everywhere. This girl followed a popularity guide from the 1950's to climb the social ladder and it ACTUALLY WORKED. I never considered myself popular in middle/high school, but when I was reading this book, I realized that I was totally Maya. While I didn't play sports and was a complete nerd, I was the person who was friendly with everyone: dweebs and preps alike. Everyone in my grade knew me and I was never picked on. So according to Maya's definition, I was popular! Maya, you're amazing and I'm glad you had the "balls" to do what very few teen girls would do." said.

"I really, really loved this book. Not only was it incredibly relatable, it was also inspiring and funny and heart breaking and all sorts of other things that would take too long to list. And considering I'm in the same grade, if not age, as Maya was when she wrote this and when these events took place, I can relate to this on a whole additional level. I'm so happy that I read this now and not any time later, since I think that I can take things I've learned from this book and use them in the future. I don't think I'll ever be able to be as bold as Maya was, but I can try. I know that I'll remember this book and all the things I learned from it for a long time, and I only hope that others can experience the beauty behind the message shown <3" said.

"Maya would have been my heroine at thirteen. I'm still socially awkward now, but have grown up to cope adequately with new people (though I avoid may social settings where I'd be uncomfortable). What every school needs is a Maya.

This is no-fiction, if you're wondering. A diary of teenager Maya's life. But not an ode to 'why haven't I got a boyfriend?'. This is her warts-and-all portrait of herself and her efforts to become more popular through one school year in middle school.

It impressed me from the cover that Maya is the youngest ever (non-actor) to be offered a film deal with large studio Dreamworks, and the writing inside impressed me more still. Maya writes with maturity, humour and insight. She goes on a quest to improve herself, to improve her social standing, and ends up improving her own self-knowledge, self-worth, and self-confidence. It's a moving transformation and one I smiled and warmed at.

The remarkable thing about the book (apart from Maya's tender age) is that Maya gets her inspiration to begin this journey from a fifty year old Guide to Popularity, written by a teen model of the 50s, Betty Cornell. Following her guidance on clothes, makeup, poise and eventually moving on to extending her social group by talking to those outside her usual circle, Maya gradually blossoms through her writing into a strong-minded and passionate young woman.

I loved this. Really, truly loved this. If only I could have been there to see this teenager fly in the face on convention and wear pearls, dare to sit with the Popular kids, talk to strangers everywhere she went.

Strictly Ballroom has always been one of my favourite films, and I hope Maya wouldn't mind this comparison. She includes photos of herself throughout, bravely. And from the start, it is obvious she is attractive but low in confidence. Like Fran, she has to push herself on others to get what she wants, like Fran she takes risks with her appearance and approaches the unapproachable. And even if her Scott doesn't appear (though at 13, that would be a miracle), she's both a swan inside and out, and a real role model herself.

I felt quite emotional when she contacted Betty Cornell herself, and have so much admiration for this young girl who stuck her neck out (with her loving family's support) and dared to do more than most teenagers I've ever met. Especially in America, the land of the Clique. And in her town too, so vivid here, with regular random drugs raids, teenage pregnancy and social deprivation.

A joy to read, one I will watch as a film, and one I want desperately to put on the UK National Curriculum for secondary school already!
" said.

"This review appears on Happy Indulgence. Check it out for more reviews!

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.

“Maya, go play with those kids over there. They look nice.”
“No,” I’d protest.
“Well, why not?”
“Because I don’t like the other children.”
That statement has shaped my entire life.


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.

Thank you so much to Penguin Teen Australia for bringing this book into my hands at PTA Live, because I never would have have heard about it otherwise!
" said.

" I read this whole book while on a four-hour road trip and I didn't even realize the time passing. Super quick read, really sweet, genuine, and real. I loved Maya and her story and I really enjoyed the idea of Betty Cornell's book being applied generations later. 4/5 stars, would recommend to anyone who enjoys sweet, relatable, awesome books. :)-H. " said.

June 2017 New Book:

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