First off: Maya Van Wagenen, I love you. You did what I always wanted to do (write a well-known book as a teenager) and you did it with style. You are who I wish I was in eighth grade. You are who I wish I had in eighth grade. And I’m so glad you wrote this book so that the millions of eighth grades like you and me out there have the reassurance that there are others like us out there. And it will be okay.
Gushy feelings aside, Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek, is sweet book about the realities of American middle schools and just what it really takes to be popular. It’s a super fast read (took me about 4 hours) and one that will remind you of those horrid middle school years, but then turn everything around to make you smile.
Van Wagenen’s voice is refreshing in a world dominated by adult writers and I just love her guts, however I did find the writing style a little simple and the beginning a little slow. She is fifteen, and she writes like a very naturally talented fifteen-year-old; lacking the polish and detail “practiced” writers have. This didn’t bother me a ton, but did tug at me throughout the book. (Bare in mind, I’m reading this a week after pouring over college reading-level books, so it just jolted me into a new genre). I found myself in despair by the series of events and results she recorded, rooting for her constantly but finding myself forever frustrated by the end results at several months.
It wasn’t until the final chapters that I just got it, as I think most readers of this book do. Popularity is something Van Wagenen attempts to define, and she does a beautiful job. The last sections add everything up, and all of her trials and errors before just make sense. Van Wagenen made me want to be a better version of myself, and I think that’s one of the most powerful things a book can do.
Have you read Popular? What did you think? I really enjoy memoirs, so please suggest any you like!