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Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  11,180 ratings  ·  2,267 reviews
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 Corn
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 15th 2014 by Dutton Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2014)
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Kitty Because there is a significant chunk of the book that talks about behavior of the boys she goes to school with, I think it would be very worth reading…moreBecause there is a significant chunk of the book that talks about behavior of the boys she goes to school with, I think it would be very worth reading for everyone. There are so many topics she covers that are universal when talking about social standing and cliques, plus there is a lot boys could learn from how Maya is treated specifically by the boys at her school. I think it would make for great discussion. Hell, the fact that they are resistant to your idea alone makes for great discussion. I didn't want to read Catcher in the Rye because it was a coming of age story about a boy, but it was required reading when I was in school. Boys need to get over themselves. (less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 4.02  · 
Rating details
 ·  11,180 ratings  ·  2,267 reviews

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Christine Riccio
Jun 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
<3 so much love for this book here's the video i made: ...more
Rachel Hartman
Apr 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Full disclosure: my agent sent this to me to read. I told him I might, if I had time. I didn't imagine I'd have time, and this didn't really sound like my kind of thing.

Well, I think this line from one of my reply e-mails says it best: "I wasn't going to read it, and then I couldn't stop reading it."

This wins on voice, darlings. Witty, wry, honest, heartfelt voice. Of all the elements of writing, I really feel like that's the one you can't fake.
Kristina Horner
Jan 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book was so delightful, and so much better than I expected it to be! Maya's writing is a treat, and the message in this book - while absolutely perfect for younger readers - still rang true for me as well in my late twenties. I am so impressed this was written by a 15 year old. It's hard to believe, but the voice is so genuine and honest it must be true. :) ...more
Jul 15, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars

it's hard to review this book because i want to review it like i review novels (works of fiction), but that wouldn't be very fair. overall, this book, in the end, shares a good message, despite having some issues with telling it in the most effective way.
May 05, 2014 rated it it was ok
I feel a little guilty giving this book 2 stars. The author is young, and obviously a very nice, driven person who will go far. I wouldn't want her to stumble across this and feel badly. But I use this website to keep track of my reads and my thoughts, so I had to be honest. And then I saw that Steven Spielberg had bought the rights to her book, and I didn't feel so bad anymore.

I picked this book up because I was looking for something quick and mindless. It had such great ratings, I thought this
Feb 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
All middle-school girls should read this book! Maya creates a relatable voice and acts as a role model for all adolescents facing the same social issues as she faced. Thank you Maya for being brave enough to share your story and in turn inspire others to put themselves out there and have the courage to face rejection, but more than that, to be accepted as their true selves!
I flew through the pages of this book. It sucked me in and i couldn't get out. It is such a beautiful book. Maya is so brave and strong and talented and knowing that she did all those things,that THIS is her life..its brilliant and genious. I LOVE IT.

I used to be that girl. The unpopular girl. (maybe still am,just dont care,or maybe i do) And this book is amazing. The courage it takes to follow through her plan,the tests she went through...were all worth it in the end. You can see her ('see' yes
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
I found an ARC of this one day by chance, after this was sat on my shelf for over two years, I finally sat down and read it in two sittings. It was such an interesting read, following the life of Maya, who goes to school on the US/Mexico boarder and isn't popular. She then learns about a guide written by Betty Cornell, published in the 1950s and having tips on how to be popular. Maya decides to follow the guide, with a chapter tested each month. In the process, she learns about fashion, hairstyl ...more
Jul 12, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: girls in the pre-teen age group
This book should be read after Betty Cornell’s Teen-age Popularity Guide. It’s a cute book and the author is amiable and sweet. While reading it, I kept laughing at myself since as a rule I try to avoid memoirs written by anyone younger than their forties. This one was written by an eighth grader! I read it out of curiosity and am happy that I did, although I cannot recommend it to anyone other than girls in that age group.

My favorite quote:

“Popularity is more than looks. It’s not clothes, hair
Nov 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own-irl, review
Omgness I really enjoyed this book and I admire Maya so much!
4 out of 5 stars
Kristen (kaymaldo)
I was really excited going into this book because I had heard a lot of great things about it. I think the concept is really smart and interesting, but to be honest it fell short for me.

The beginning of the book was kind of boring and there were a few moments where I felt like the author was judging people who didn't do things the way she did. For instance there's a part where she says she wasted a bunch of hours away reading a bunch of teen fashion websites and should have spent her time reading
Cute. It's an interesting idea, and it's very well done. Who'da thunk pearls would be one of the items that translated well down the generations? And there is a really strong "message" (don't worry it's NOT a sermon, and there is no preaching) about the way we see ourselves and what it really means to be "popular". Did I say "well done"? I meant it. ...more
i really enjoyed this novel and watching maya experiment/grow was so much fun. full review to come! (:
Aleishas Reviews
What an inspirational book!
Alison (AlisonCanRead)
Have you seen Popular gracing the shelves of your local bookstore? I picked it up, because it's been all over mine, along with the reissued copy of Betty Cornell's Popularity Guide, which Maya relied on for advice. Not only that, but Maya is in a bunch of teen magazines and even got a movie deal. I had to see what the hype was about. Popular is an enjoyable, quick read, but I also found its premise somewhat troubling and thus finished it with mixed feelings.

The basic premise of this book is that
Feb 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book gives a whole new insight on the hell hole that is High School. We follow a girl who is at the bottom of her schools "popular" hierarchy, till one day when she finds a book about how to be popular taking place in the 50's. She uses the skills the book has and applies them to modern day life. She goes through this whole self- discovering and meanings chapter in her life and the character growth is astounding! It shows what the definition of popular has different meanings to everyone and ...more
Feb 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
Was the writing solid? Yes.
Was the concept clever? Yes.
Would I recommend this to a 12-year-old girl? Absolutely.

Did I enjoy reading it? Not really, not by the end. As to be expected, it reads like the journal of an 8th-grade girl, which exhausted me by the end. I'd totally recommend this to certain readers, but my enthusiasm for it waned about halfway through.
Apr 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Honest, funny, and FREAKING ADORABLE. Would my daughters hate me if I said I wished they were more like her?
Fernanda Granzotto
Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars
This book has really good and important points, but unfortunately I could not connect with the characters.
But it's a book that I recommend you try to read, maybe you'll enjoy it more than I did.
Jeann (Happy Indulgence)
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 po
Jessica Jeffers
Nov 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography-memoir
This girl's amazing. I know that she probably had some editorial help, but I still can't believe a thirteen-year-old girl can write so well. Thirty-year-old Jessica is jealous, and the ghost of thirteen-year-old Jessica is crying her eyes out somewhere deep inside me. I wish I'd had this back then. It would have been a really good thing for me, I think.

I had a really unique high school experience. I went to a small, rural school district where almost everyone was somebody’s cousin. If there wer
Katy Kelly
Apr 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 fr
May 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Bought the book in the morning and finished reading it in the afternoon. Literally could not put it down (and had to reach for a Kleenex more often than a 52-year-old father of four might be expected to). Teenager Maya Van Wagenen lives and writes an engaging adventure -- a social experiment -- that will, doubtless, inspire many others. She manages to bring precociously-deep insight into the human condition through a fun, and often-dramatic, personal story.

I've often told young people that I wis
Apr 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone attending school (preferably Middle School)
Shelves: favorites, 6-stars, own
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 fut ...more
Aug 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: would-read-again
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 de ...more
Sara ➽ Ink Is My Sword
Sep 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
4 Stars

+ I highly enjoyed, it was fun and interesting.
+ I liked how her perspective of popularity changed through the novel, I personaly don't like the idea of WANTING TO BE POPULAR so the annoyed me a little.
+ It was easy to read and quick.
+ I feel girls or boys in middle school would feel more related to it, because I am older I felt something were kind of inmature but I understood I was probably like that as well.

3 1/2. Darling. I love Maya's bravery and the things she learned about true popularity.
Dec 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
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. :)

Jul 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Such a cute and inspiring read while we follow Maya's journey on becoming popular. I would highly recommend it! ...more
Dec 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
perfect re-read before school starts
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Maya Van Wagenen is fifteen years old. When she was eleven, her family moved to Brownsville, Texas, the setting of Popular. When not hunched over a desktop writing, Maya enjoys reading, British television, and chocolate. She now lives with her parents and two siblings in rural Georgia. She is a sophomore in high school but still shares a room with her sixth-grade brother. Remarkably, they have not ...more

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Let's face it: Being cooped up inside during the pandemic has left a lot of us searching for a sense of connection with one another. Memoirs...
26 likes · 5 comments
“Popularity is more than looks. It’s not clothes, hair, or even possessions. When we let go of these labels, we see how flimsy and relative they actually are. Real popularity is kindness and acceptance. It is about who you are, and how you treat others.” 74 likes
“No popularity exists when tragedy strikes. All that's left are human hearts and love and ache. We all love each other, deep down, and when we see another soul in pain we can't help but hurt too.” 46 likes
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