[Review] Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek – Maya van Wagenen

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern GeekAuthor: Maya Van Wagenen

Series: None

Publication Date: April 15th, 2014

Publisher: Dutton Juvenile

Number of Pages: 272

Genre: Memoirs, YA, Contemporary, Non-Fiction

Source: School library

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository


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.


Wow I’m pretty impressed by this, especially since the author is about my age.

I really enjoyed reading this novel. Initially, it was at the bottom of my list of to-be-reads because I had checked it out the most recently. Then I gave into my urge and began to read it. I’m glad I did.

Popular details something that I would do. I’d love to follow some vintage popularity guide because it sounds like something that would be really really fun. I’d probably switch some stuff around so it applies a little better to my situation (ie: I don’t have the money to be buying some new vintage-y clothing. Also, my mother would not let me wear those things). I’d also probably try to apply each aspect at the same time, building off of the last chapter, instead of abandoning each new aspect (It seems like that is what she did, but I’m not too sure).

This very fact was what made me connect with the book. I felt like I was right there with her, going through these trials together. I loved her experiment so much.

I do feel like her memoir was a little too polished, her grammar a little too eloquent. Part of the novelty of reading a journal is the voice of the writer. You can feel the emotions very clearly when they write in the heat of the moment, the ferocious, raw passion they emote through the pages. Sometimes, I felt like it was too airbrushed but for the most part, her honest, young voice was true. She was a very sweet, likable narrator.

The novel itself was a nice ball of quirkiness. The pictures and people each had their own personalities. Almost never was any person just a passing name. I wanted to go to her old school just to meet these people (does that make me a stalker?).

But what I took away from this book was more. It was not just a another good book to me. This book spoke to me. Van Wagenen tells people that it’s okay to be shy because anybody can become more outgoing. She says that it doesn’t really matter what people think of you because what matters most is the opinions of yourself and who is important to you. That true popularity isn’t just being known by everybody. She set out to tell a message and she killed it.

4/5 Stars


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