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Popular : A Memoir : Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek  - Maya Van Wagenen

Popular : A Memoir

Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek


Published: 15th April 2014
For Ages: 12+ years old
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RRP $16.99

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Published: 15th April 2014
For Ages: 12+ years old
Format: ePUB

A true story

'School is the armpit of life - and my school is no exception.'

From hair-dos and girdles to pearls and posture, Maya does whatever Betty says - no matter how difficult or embarrassing.

When Maya Van Wagenen finds a 1950s Guide to Popularity she embarks on a unique social experiment: for one school year she follows the advice of its author, teen model Betty Cornell.

She's determined to see her experiment through, for better or worse.

Does it work? You decide.

A touchingly honest and candidly hysterical memoir from one of Time's most influential teens of 2013.

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 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.


Popular: A Memoir


A funny, well thought out book, that teaches you that anyone can fit in.

Mid North Coast, NSW


Funny and Inspiring


In a social experiment with a difference, teenager Maya van Wagenen decides to take the advice from a self-help book for teens to become popular written 60 years ago, apply it to the modern world, and write about her experiences. For the entirety of the eight grade Maya documents her feelings and the reactions of people whilst asking the question - is it possible to go from social outcast and the bottom of the popularity ladder to being the top of the social scale by following advice from a bygone era? I wasn't expecting to enjoy this book nearly as much as I did. Maya writes so honestly about her life, her family and the reactions of people in her small town as she embarks on her crazy adventure. I liked how Maya decided to tackle this project - breaking the popularity guide by former teen model Betty Cornell down into manageable parts - starting with the most achievable and slowly building up to the more challenging sections. She wrestles with girdles, replaces eye make-up with vaseline and puts herself firmly out of her comfort zone on her journey to do whatever Betty says. The journey is gradual and believable. Maya doesn't just wake up one day, become 1950's version of a queen bee. Rather, she painstakingly follows Betty's advice no matter how humiliating or hard. She's dignified in her approach to her project no matter what obstacles are in her path. Maya writes with humour and intelligence well beyond her years. Her story is well-written and relatable for readers of all ages. I loved reading about her journey following Betty's advice but what sets this book apart is how honest and candid Maya is about her family. Her closeness to her parents and siblings is a beautiful thing. The family photos and anecdotes were just as important to the story as Maya's journey to popularity. It is clear to see why Time Magazine named Maya as one of the most influential teens of 2013. Her decision to transform herself into a woman best suited to the 1950's may seem ridiculous but Maya achieved what she set out to do. She had a goal to do something out of her comfort zone no matter what others thought of her and, with the support of her family, - she managed to see it though to the end. She's brave and took the risk of following Betty's advice and changed her outlook on life in the process. Popular may not be the kind of book I read a lot of but I'm glad I decided to give Maya's book a go. It's funny and inspiring, entertaining and intelligent. There are things from Maya's story I think everyone can learn from and I definitely look forward to seeing what she writes in the future.

Brisbane, AU


Popular : A Memoir

4.5 2


Everyone's happiness project looks different, and I was utterly charmed by Maya Van Wagenen's honest, funny, and thought-provoking account of her efforts to become 'popular'. -- Gretchen Rubin, #1 bestselling author of The Happiness Project Maya Van Waganen's memoir, POPULAR, would have been wonderful to read as a kid, and so reassuring to Nerdy Teenage Me. Her year-long experiment in popularity is timeless; the intelligent and humane way she gets to the heart of the matter is uniquely her. Funny, determined, and wry, Van Wagenan has written a wise, heartfelt guide for other kids eager to keep up. -- Rachel Hartman, NYT bestselling author of Seraphina Geeky and dorky, but never wimpy, Maya Van Wagenen is as powerful and honest as she is quirky and funny-and startlingly gifted. She's the real deal, folks, a teenage John Green for the next generation. Stunning. -- Margaret Stohl, bestselling co-author of the Beautiful Creatures series A talented writer, she's funny, thoughtful and self-effacing . . . Teens will readily identify with her * Kirkus * Popular is wonderful. It is charming, touching, entertaining - and brought back a lot of memories about my own high school anxieties. I will be saving my copy to give to my daughter when she is a little older -- Jo Elvin * Glamour *



I'm Betty Cornell!

I wrote Betty Cornell's Teen-Age Popularity Guide in 1951. I was twenty-four. Pedal pushers were the hottest fashion trend. They hit just below the knee and were the shortest shorts around. Pleated skirts had hemlines that often fell to the ankle, and many girls knit crewneck sweaters themselves, which were all the rage. Miniskirts were still more than a decade away, and skinny jeans and crop tops were unheard of.

If you wanted a change for your hair, you got a reverse perm at the beauty salon. (There were no boxes of hair color at the drugstore, because no one dyed their hair!) To style my hair, each evening I would pin it up in rag curlers, stuffed with Kleenex to give more volume, go to bed, and wake up in the morning with the perfect pageboy hairstyle.

But today, things have changed. I walk around town and see hair in hues of blues and pinks and the fashions are more revealing. While I have witnessed many fashion trends that were considerably less modest than what I wore growing up, I have been around long enough to recognize that a huge part of fashion is pushing the limits of the past. The more things have changed, it is interesting that the core motivation to outdo the previous generation clearly remains the same, just as it was when I wrote my book. It is comforting for me to know that even though I am no longer a prominent part of the fashion world, the end goal is still the same even if the product is not.

My most vivid memories of publishing my Teen-Age Popularity Guide are of how flattered I felt whenever I received letters from teenagers telling me how much they had learned by reading my book. They told me about their clothes, their hair, and their parties—I loved hearing from them.

However, I was surprised many years later by another letter my book brought me. And this time, it was by e-mail and turned out to be the most heartwarming and profound. It came from Maya Van Wagenen in April of 2012, and she told me that I had changed her life! She had used my book for tips and hints on how to deal with the challenges she was facing in school. Remarkably she used advice I wrote decades ago and applied it in today's world. I was so delighted to know that my book had withstood the test of time and was still providing help to teenagers.

When I finished reading Maya's book—this book you are about to read, too—I felt a cascade of feelings: pride, love, satisfaction, and happy memories. It amazed me to see Maya tell her tale with such knowledge, poise, and grace. Over the years, I have seen many good grooming and fashion trends come and go and, on rare occasion, return years later with modifications to fit the new generation's taste. But I never thought when I was writing my book that the advice I offered would be made relevant sixty years later through the eyes of a new, young writer.

I began my career as a model and then found great success as an author. Maya is starting her career as an author, but she is already a model of courage and confidence for her generation and generations to come.

Betty Cornell

ISBN: 9780141353258
ISBN-10: 0141353252
Audience: Children
For Ages: 12+ years old
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 272
Published: 15th April 2014
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 20.1 x 12.9  x 1.8
Weight (kg): 0.21
Edition Number: 1