Saturday, July 24, 2010

How to be Popular by Meg Cabot

Despite its rather misleading name, How to be Popular is not a self-help book.

How to Be Popular

I read this book for the first time a few years ago. I recently re-read because I recommended it to a friend and she borrowed it from a library and then I just had to borrow it from her. (I also read Cabot's Airhead in a similar manner two days before this one. My friends are now being cautious about reading books around me. On the other hand, I've always been like Katy from What Katy Did and my friends do tend to lock up their books when I come to visit. Which reminds me that I must review that book sometime.) Anyway, getting back on topic. I think How to be Popular is Cabot's best book for teens (better than Cabot's Princess Diaries series, which frankly got totally unfocused towards the end, much better than some of her other stuff like the Mediator Series, the All American Girl books, and other, crazier novels like Airhead, Jinx and Avalon High. I think the only ones that I can think of that come close are Teen Idol and Tommy Sullivan is a Freak. (I looked at this list. I've read too many Cabot books. This isn't even the complete list of the books I've read by her, and I don't even like her that much.)

One of the first things that I like about the book is the main character - Steph Landry is one of the best characters in teen fiction - not 'beautiful without knowing it' or even a 'braniac' (which is Em in Airhead, who even becomes 'drop-dead-gorgeous' by the end of the book. Now you see why I don't like it.) Steph is a normal girl with the most normal of all teenage problems - crushes, and weight, and school and getting a social life. Which makes her a perfect character for teenage fiction, because lets face it - not everyone reading this can be either beautiful, or extremely brainy, or both. Steph has been a social reject for many, many years - mostly because she dropped a drink on a friend's white skirt in school and never managed to live it down. (This I thought of as a little exaggerated, but its a novel, so alright). In fact, its so bad that anyone committing a faux pas in her town is told "Not to pull a Steph Landry."

Steph Landry gets her hands on a book - and some money, borrowed from her grandfather - and sets about revolutionizing her social life.

The title of this book - well, you guessed it - How to be Popular.

One of the things I like about this book is the way the author writes, where each (short) scene is interspersed with an extract from the aforementioned book, mostly one which pertains to the following scene. Meg Cabot does this really well in another series of hers that I like - the Queen of Babble (see, I told you I wasn't done) and it works in this book. Not to mention that the advice is actually slightly sound (things like 'be yourself') and reminds me a bit of the best self-help book I've ever read How to Win Friends and Influence People for Girls by Donna Dale Carnegie, which is always a plus. The writing is simple and effective, well targeted, and always interesting.

I really like how this book breaks stereotypes. Airhead, even though it is quite literally about two worlds colliding, still managed to make everyone from the super-model world come off as bland and stupid. In this book, on the other hand, we get characters like Darlene and Alyssa, who just make the book alive, and also characters like Jason (who is seriously almost exactly like Christopher from Airhead, though) and Becky who are also sweet and likeable. Even the main villian, Lauren, is interesting enough to make you want to see her get her due, instead of you just wanting her to get off the page because she's so diabolical and weird that you can see right through her. I also love, love the way this book ends. In a book that calls itself 'How to be Popular', this book certainly managed to disillusion teenagers about popularity as a concept and puts it in its place.

Final thoughts: Good writing, interesting characters, and even a message. It even holds up to a re-read. A good book for passing away some time, especially if you're a teenager.

Other things: Hmm...still reading Frankenstein, and I also started reading Two States by Bhagat (which is not half-bad so far). I don't know which one I'll review first.


  1. Hi Sakhi,

    just finished a great book called Shantaram by Gregory Roberts.

    have extracted a paragraph for this post:

    absolutely loved the book.

    do review it if possible.

  2. Hey RS,
    I've been meaning to read this book for an awfully long time. I will definitely review it once I read it, and I will definitely read it soon.


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