Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How Not To Be Popular

How Not To Be Popular by Jennifer Ziegler (NY: Delacorte Press, 2008).

Maggie's free wheeling, hippy parents have moved her all over the country her entire life, and she's managed fairly well, latching onto the popular kids in every school she's gone to.  But leaving Portland for Austin has been more horrible--she misses her best friend Lorraine a lot, and then her first-ever boyfriend Trevor breaks up with her by e-mail before she's even arrived at her new home--so Maggie determines that she needs a new strategy to survive Austin with her heart intact.  She doesn't want to make any friends, so that when her parents inevitably uproot her in a few months she won't have to suffer any more losses.  She will cultivate her inner nerd. She chooses the strangest outfits she can find in the vintage shop her dad is managing and avoids making friends, even subverting friendly overtures from the obviously pretty crowd (called Bippies, for beautiful people).  Still, one odd girl insists on sitting with her at lunch, and then she has to join a club so she'll have something to put on her college application, but she's determined to choose the uncool option in every situation. What can go wrong?  Pretty much everything!

This novel is laugh out loud funny, and Maggie is a great character.  She attacks being nerdy with incredible zest, so that she frequently has to make hilariously oddball choices to maintain the pretense that she's uncool.  Although it's not completely convincing that her plan will backfire the way it does--being uncool becomes cool--it still makes a zany tale, well worth reading.  No language, mild sexual situations.  Recommended for ages 12 & up.

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