An interesting and earnest memoir of a social experiment conducted by a contemporary eighth-grader who follows the advice in a popularity guide written for 1950s-era teens and blogged the experience for one school year.
Van Wagenen is the oldest child in her loving, quirky family. A talented writer, she’s funny, thoughtful and self-effacing. She is also, as she describes it, part of the “Social Outcast group, the lowest level of people at school who aren’t paid to be there.” Over the year, she discovers a great deal, most notably that despite its sounding a bit pat, popularity is “about who you are, and how you treat others.” Teens will readily identify with her candid descriptions of social dynamics at her middle school. Many of the scenarios that arise from her adherence to the suggestions in Betty Cornell’s Teen-Age Popularity Guide are effectively played to comic effect, such as wearing a girdle or pearls and white gloves. Vignettes about her life, including her grief over the death of a beloved teacher, her horror at hearing the news of a boy killed at a nearby school after he brings in a pellet gun and her excitement over speaking to Betty Cornell by telephone, provide balance.
A fascinating and unusual slice-of-life work whose humor will best be appreciated by younger teens. (Memoir. 12-16)