Monday, November 7, 2011

Mission (Un)Popular

Mission (Un)Popular by Anna Humphrey (NY: Disney-Hyperion, 2011).

Margot Button is starting seventh grade determined to avoid the social pitfalls she's practically thrown herself into during elementary school.  She just needs to keep her big mouth shut and find the right hair product to tame her wild mane.  But things get off to a bad start even before the first day when she finds out her best friend is going to another school, she won't be getting any new school clothes, and she's going to have to babysit (for free!) her triplet sisters every day.  There's also some weirdness with her friend Andrew who's acting like he wants to be more than a friend, and mean girl Sarah J. keeps bringing up last year's debacle--Margot's attempted shoplifting of a glazed ham--which has earned Margot the moniker of "Hamburglar."  A brash new girl from New York City may help Margot out of the social morass, or her schemes may just land Margot into even more trouble instead of getting her closer to Gorgeous George, her longtime crush.

Plenty of tween girls who feel socially and physically awkward will sympathize with Margot's plight.  Even as Margot tries to fit in, she can't help but dig herself into even deeper trouble, especially through her frequently thoughtless comments and actions, which are usually hilariously funny.  Her family situation--a free-spirited mother, a well-meaning but out-of-touch stepfather, and hugely cute triplet sisters--screams, and delivers, social humiliation. Margot is also a girl of color--her father, long out of the picture, is Indian--, and Margot frequently notes that she's one of the few non-Caucasians at her school.  Humphrey mentions economic realities, too, that will ring true with many readers who can't afford all the latest fashions and gadgets.  Margot's relationships with her best friend Erika, her new friend Emily, and her nemesis Sarah are well drawn and realistic, as is the awkwardness of a boy who's always been a friend and now wants to be more.  Overall, this is a great read for middle grades and is recommended for ages 10 and up. 

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