One teen invents a system to achieve popularity.
At first, 16-year-old Cara is not thrilled with her family’s decision to relocate midway through high school, especially since it means leaving her best and pretty much exclusive friend, Claudia, behind. However, when Claudia points out that this is Cara’s chance to totally reinvent herself, she begins to warm to the idea. Determined to reach the top of the high-school food chain and shake off her less-than-exciting lifelong reputation, Cara invents The Ladder with Claudia. They believe this is Cara’s chance to claim her rightful place among her new school’s popular crowd—or, as the friends have dubbed them, the Populazzi. The Ladder posits that every rung is a boyfriend who will help Cara date her way to popularity. However, Cara’s ascent is not without peril, as she quickly discovers that climbing The Ladder means drastically changing her personality, stepping on some toes, breaking hearts and risking everything, including her dream of attending Northwestern. Although it is somewhat predictable, the story unflinchingly depicts the dark and dangerous side of high-school popularity, making it a captivating read. However, this attention to details makes it all the more noticeable when certain story elements are unexpectedly dropped or situations seem unrealistically twisted to conveniently fit The Ladder.
Teens willing to forgive the flaws will find this a fascinating exploration. (Fiction. 14 & up)