Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek (A Memoir) Review – A real life journey to popularity

April 14, 2014 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 5 stars, Books, Reviews

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek (A Memoir) Review – A real life journey to popularityPopular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek (A Memoir) by Maya Van Wagenen
Published by Penguin Australia on April 15, 2014
Source: Publisher
Genres: Non Fiction, Young Adult
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A touchingly honest, candidly hysterical memoir from breakout teen author Maya Van Wagenen 

Stuck at the bottom of the social ladder at pretty much the lowest level of people at school who aren’t paid to be here,” Maya Van Wagenen decided to begin a unique social experiment: spend the school year following a 1950s popularity guide, written by former teen model Betty Cornell. Can curlers, girdles, Vaseline, and a strand of pearls help Maya on her quest to be popular? 

The real-life results are painful, funny, and include a wonderful and unexpected surprise—meeting and befriending Betty Cornell herself. Told with humor and grace, Maya’s journey offers readers of all ages a thoroughly contemporary example of kindness and self-confidence.

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! 

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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Twitter @happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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56 responses to “Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek (A Memoir) Review – A real life journey to popularity

  1. Once I saw you had a review up for this book I knew I had to read it, and I had such an amazing time reading it, too! I was already interested in this book, but now I cannot wait to read it! It sounds like a rollercoaster of emotions and hilarity and courage, and I'm just so excited, thanks to you, to read it!
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  2. This sounds like my kind of book! I'm not unsure of myself or anything like that but these books are always eye-opening. And if I like it enough, I might give it to some of my more… unsure… friends. I didn't even know that there were pictures in it. :O I got it recently but never got the chance to flick through it. Thank you for sharing Jeann!
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  3. This sounds absolutely intriguing, Jeann. I haven't read much books set in the 1950s, so that's something to look forward to, as I've yet to immerse myself in such an atmosphere. I can't wait to get to this one when I get my hands on it! Not a fan of the cover, but well, it's the insides that count 😛
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  4. This one is new to me and from the cover I hoped it would be funny and entertaining book and I'm really happy that it is. Also I like that it has deepness in it as well. The whole setting and description of neighborhood sounds really good. Great review, Jeann.
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  5. I could get into this, I love "survival" tales like this one. It may seem juvenile but it's experiences in our formative years that does the most damage sometimes. Insecurities like feeling fat and ugly are scarring, it lingers so I totally understand why you laughed, cried and rooted for her. I think I would too!
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  6. I have to admit that the cover isn't my favourite thing in the world and if i had just stumbled upon it i wouldn't have given it another glance but i do like what you have to say about this book! It seems likea good interesting read and I mean the author sounds so completely kickass!

    Lily @ Lilysbookblog
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  7. I love that you loved this book 🙂 I'm half way though – the chapter discussing makeup – and am enjoying her style.

    It's not often that you find a book that makes you laugh and cry so it's great that this book came on your radar, Jeann 🙂

  8. I've never heard of this one before, but it sounds really good! I'ma huge fan of memoirs, and it sounds like it really hits home with a lot of the content…I'll definitely need to pick this up. Great review, Jeann!

  9. This book seems so fascinating. I'm glad it got you emotional 🙂 and yes! It totally looks like an inspirational novel. Though, I don't think that popularity is the most important thing, but the real message–being confident and making friends etc–that's a good one. 15? For reals? :O That's impressive. I'm glad you enjoyed 🙂
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  10. Okay, based on the cover I would not have looked twice at this book, but both your reaction and the connection to the 50s really excites me! I love books set in that time period (and we just finished our March readalong THE LUCKIEST GIRL, which was set then), so I think I'm going to have to look for this one! Thanks so much for the heads up, I never would have known about this without you!
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