Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek (A Memoir)

Maya Van Wagenen

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek (A Memoir)
Penguin Random House Children's UK
United Kingdom
15 April 2014

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek (A Memoir)

Maya Van Wagenen

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek is a touchingly honest, candidly hysterical memoir from breakout teen author Maya Van Wagenen.

Stuck at the bottom of the social ladder at ‘pretty much the lowest level of people at school who aren’t paid to be here,’ Maya Van Wagenen decided to begin a unique social experiment: spend the school year following a 1950s popularity guide, written by former teen model Betty Cornell. Can curlers, girdles, Vaseline, and a strand of pearls help Maya on her quest to be popular?

The real-life results are painful, funny, and include a wonderful and unexpected surprise-meeting and befriending Betty Cornell herself. Told with humour and grace, Maya’s journey offers readers of all ages a thoroughly contemporary example of kindness and self-confidence.

About the author: Maya Van Wagenen is fifteen years old. When she was eleven, her family moved to Brownsville, Texas, the setting of Popular. When not hunched over a desktop writing, Maya enjoys reading, British Television, and chocolate. She now lives with her parents and two siblings in a rural Georgia. She is a sophomore in high school but still shares a room with her sixth grade brother. Remarkably they have not yet killed each other.


New to her rough, seriously disadvantaged school on the Texas–Mexico border, Maya has quickly worked out the social hierarchy. She is in the ‘Social Outcasts’ group, third from the bottom and superior only to those paid to be there – the teachers and substitute teachers. So, in an impulsive moment, she decides to try an experiment. Is it possible to become popular by using Betty Cornell’s Teen-Age Popularity Guide, a book published in 1951 and picked up in a thrift store by her father, who chuckled over it before promptly forgetting it?

With amazing tenacity and courage, Maya reconstructs herself, buying vintage clothes from the 1950s, embracing Vaseline for shining eyes, adopting a girdle and gloves for special occasions as well as cultivating good grooming and hygiene.

Her learning experience is hilarious; totally kooky, unexpected, and at times profound. What’s more, this clever, funny book is not fiction. Maya is a real 15-year-old schoolgirl, and this whole mad experience is her memoir. Popular is a real ‘one off’ and a deliciously entertaining read for any age.

Kathy Kozlowski

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