I steer clear of contemporary YA fiction. Most of the time I am just disgusted by how the “normal teenager” is portrayed. However, I was VERY intrigued by the title of this book that I bumped into in the Young Adult section of our library.
I found it in the fiction section, but this book is actually a memoir. Maya Van Wagenen, who is the actual teenage author of this REAL account, is FAR from that fictitious “normal teenager” I deliberately avoid. She’s amazing!
Maya is tired of being a social outcast at her middle school. She decides that it is time to make some serious changes so that she can start climbing the social ladder and obtain what every middle school girl desires: Popularity.
But rather than just trying to wing it like the rest of us did, this awesome and geeky teenager goes a whole new route. She takes her dad up on what was initially a dare, and uses an old book that he brought home from a used book store.
A guide to popularity from the 50’s!
Seriously guys. This book is GOLDEN.
A lot of Betty’s advise is timeless- and truly forward thinking for a woman from the fifties. But a lot of it is classic vintage advise.
Maya does not go half way.
Betty Cornell’s guide is split up into several areas to improve yourself to become popular. Maya splits the chapters up and assigns each of them to a month of the school year. This book is written in journal form, chronicling her failures and triumphs. She works on improving things like her image, skin and make-up, hygiene, and fashion. But Betty’s guide is also packed with gems of wisdom. Maya works on things like attitude, confidence, and hard work.
Besides the hilarious (and sometimes very painful) experiences Maya has during her experiments, she fills her book with thoughts on her quirky family, her crazy town in Texas that sits right on the boarder to Mexico (she can literally watch drug wars from her front porch), her insecurities in her relationships with boys and friends, and her own tips from the things she has learned about popularity.
I give this book a 4.5 stars! Besides being “ballsy” (her mom’s words, not mine- although I think them entirely appropriate), Maya is truly a gifted writer. I laughed out loud almost as often as I cried for amazing Maya and her courage. It was a quick, light, feel-good read.
I think all teenage girls could benefit from Maya’s book. But, I think this book is just as useful to we adults who still struggle with confidence, self image, and the need to feel accepted.
If you are considering have your daughters read it- just a heads up: It does have a bit of language, and Maya does write a bit about things that she has learned in her sex education class. But Maya is a classy girl. She keeps it PG.