A few weeks ago I was contacted by Penguin Books about Popular, a book written by American Teenager Maya Van Wagenan. Maya had been struggling with the hierarchy at her middle school and felt herself languishing at the bottom of the social ladder. One day she discovered a guide to popularity written by former model Betty Cornell in 1954.
She decided to spend her final year of school following the advice from the book and seeing if Betty’s ideas worked. Subjects covered included; clothing, appearance, figure, meeting people, and earning money amongst other things. My first instinct would be to question the need to be popular, or to have to change yourself to please others. As an adult it’s easy to forget how hard school can be and how much you just want to fit in.
I didn’t think there was much I could learn from reading the experiences of a 13-year-old learning about popularity. However very early on in the book I realised that Maya is a very special person. She is clever and articulate, she writes beautifully and she is wise beyond her years. Her dedication to the project was commendable, she tries things that I wouldn’t have dared to at school. I won’t give much away because I want people to just experience the book with out me telling you what happens, but she learns so much about herself and those around her. It’s inspirational and emotional and important.
I love the way she works with Betty Cornell’s slightly dated advice and works into her own life. She works out what she can take from it, all the while working things out for herself and learning so much along the way.
At times the book is funny, and others touching. Maya should be every teenage girls best friend and I can’t wait for my daughters to be old enough to read this because I know if I had read it at 13 and taken more risks and tried new things I would have enjoyed school more. As an adult I felt inspired by Maya and I would recommend this book to everyone.
Sorry if this wasn’t much a review, but I really just wanted to say how much I love the book and Maya.
I was invited by Penguin Books to attend a launch party for the book at their offices in London. It was such a fun event with adorable mini burger and hotdog canapés, a pop up vintage salon and an array of fabulous vintage stalls. It was nice to chat with some of my other favourite vintage and book bloggers and to discover lots of new ones. The two pictures above are the only ones I managed to take (bad blogger) as I was having such a great time and didn’t stop chatting to people all night. How amazing is the view of the Thames from Penguin’s offices! Penguin did send me this picture of Maya and Jo to include though!
Not only was Maya there to introduce her book and answer our questions she was also joined by Jo Elvin the editor of Glamour magazine, who talked about the book and gave Maya a fantastic interview. Maya is even more wonderful in real life, and I was delighted to hear that she is currently writing her first novel which I can’t wait to read.
We were each gifted a lovely Popular canvas bag with some goodies inside including both Maya and Betty’s books as well as some treats from the stall holders at the event and a copy of Glamour. I haven’t read Betty’s book yet, but will definitely be reading and reviewing it in the future as well as enjoying the other treats from my goody bag.
You can buy the books on Amazon here…
Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek (A Memoir)
Betty Cornell Teen-Age Popularity Guide