How Not To Be Popular, by Jennifer Ziegler

Jennifer Ziegler’s How Not to be Popular is not, as some of you might think, an unauthorized sequel to Meg Cabot’s How To Be Popular. Sure, there’s the nearly identical titles, and the fact that both books have warm-toned, faux-retro covers, and both open each chapter with a note about popularity, and both feature teenage heroines finding love in unexpected places... but, happily, the biggest thing Cabot and Ziegler’s books have in common is that they’re both totally fun.

Maggie Dempsey is sick of her life. Her hippie parents are constantly moving, and while Maggie enjoyed her family’s nomadic lifestyle as a child, she hates it as a teen. Every move means leaving behind her school, her friends, and (as of her sophomore year in Portland, Oregon) a boyfriend. When her parents drag her to Austin, Maggie comes up with a plan: this time, she’s not going to get hurt when they leave because she’s not going to make any friends, and she’s definitely not going to fall in love. Determined to make herself as off-putting as possible, Maggie dresses like a lunatic, snubs the popular crowd, and generally flaunts her eccentricity as much as possible. Unfortunately for Maggie, her aggressively crazy style catches on, and it isn’t long before she’s facing a wave of popularity as unwelcome as it is unexpected.

Ziegler’s book plays with one of my pet theories about high school: it doesn’t matter what you act like or how you’re dressed, high school students will respect anyone who seems like they know what they’re doing*. The obvious deliberation of Maggie’s actions—no matter how weird—is more than enough to win her classmates’ admiration. While the humor and romance in How Not to Be Popular will undoubtedly charm her teenage fans, Ziegler’s sweet, smart, sharply funny exploration of the sheep-like nature of high school popularity guarantees that her book has a lot to offer older readers, too.

*I developed this theory after observing the successful transformation of one of my middle school classmates. After years of being a stereotypical D&D-playing geek, he grew a two-foot-wide afro, insisted that people call him “Ziggy”, and constantly acted like he was stoned out of his mind. (To the best of my knowledge, he wasn’t.) And you know what? He seemed so pleased with himself that everybody accepted him, even the jocks. It was a fascinating thing to behold.
Posted by: Julianka


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