Obviously, They Forgot the Disclaimer:How to be Popular by Meg Cabot

Do you want to be popular? Everyone wants to be popular or at least, Stephanie Landry does. Steph’s been the least popular girl in her class since a certain cherry Super Big Gulp catastrophe five years earlier. Does being popular matter? It matters very much to Steph. That’s why this year, she has a plan to get in with the It Crowd in no time flat. She’s got a secret weapon: an old book called what else? How to Be Popular. What does it take to be popular? All Steph has to do is follow the instructions in The Book, and soon she’ll be partying with the It Crowd (including school quarterback Mark Finley) instead of sitting on The Hill Saturday nights, stargazing with her nerdy best pal Becca, and even nerdier Jason (now kind of hot, but still), whose passion for astronomy Steph once shared. Who needs red dwarves when you’re invited to the hottest parties in town? But don’t forget the most important thing about popularity! It’s easy to become popular. What isn’t so easy? Staying that way.

Source: GoodReads

Meg Cabot was like one of my role models growing up.  Which is a pretty difficult tasks to do considering the other woman on that list (note to self: one day publish said list on my blog).  However, as extraordinary as some of her books are, there are some that aren’t so good.

And now that I’m older and more cynical (thanks to reading five thousand YA books-well, probably less than that but it feels like that much) and the market has grown,well, this book really sucks.

I hate to say it, but it does.

Have I really changed that much as a reader?

Probably yes and no.  My  thoughts of the book originally were meh.  I wasn’t that impressed, but upon reread I was just shocked at how bland and insipid it was.  And that this book came from the Meg Cabot.

The story itself is simple but decent.   Simplicity can be a good thing though, some of my favorite contemporary romances are simple.  But at times, How to be Popular felt too cookie cutter.  Every single aspect of the plot was predictable and the Cabot tropes were all there.

Nothing out there at all.  And I could’ve totally gotten that if the characters felt a little bit more realistic.

Realistic and likable.

Because it took me more than a little time to warm up to Steph.

Dare I say, I don’t like her.

Yes, I’m going to say it.  I do not like Steph Landry and I totally understand why people were making fun of her for all those years-stupid Big Gulp aside.

Do you really you think it’s perfectly okay to play peeping Tom on your best friend and then crush on another guy while constantly slut slamming anyone who might look a little bit better than you?

Really?

Throughout reading this my head I kept thinking, is this really from the same woman who created Michael Moscovitz, Mia Thermopolis, Suze Simon, and Jesse de Silva.

Well,  the book cover says it is.

But the book felt so phoned in, guys.  Steph and Jason there were some cute moments…but as far as the panty melting scenes that you see in other Meg books.

Not there.

I almost felt like Jason was some prize given to Steph at the end for making good life choices.

Dumb.

The tension was there, obviously.  But her crush easily moving from Mark to him felt sudden and out of place.

Logic: But it is a standalone and there wasn’t enough time to give it a sequel.

Yeah, and who’s fault is that?  Seriously, maybe have a few more scenes where Steph is conflicted about her feelings than the sudden epiphany and I would’ve bought it better.

Besides, the characters being remarkably bland for a Meg book, I also felt like the setting was lackluster as well.  I get that her midwest set books are based off of the town she was raised in (or at least I’m assuming they are), but it seems with each of these contemporaries the setting gets more and more blah and the characters in the town get more flat.

And yes, despite what some people may say,  flat characters and settings can effect the value of a book.

And it did here.

Its especially obvious with its simplistic plot.  I think had Steph and Jason been as fleshed out as other Cabot characters, I could handle the cringe worthy plot of learning that popularity isn’t everything.

Another thing would’ve been to tone down the mean girl/slut slamming tropes that frequented this title.  I will give Cabot credit, this book was published in 2006 when a lot of people weren’t noting this god awful trope.  And she tried to remedy it by having some of the so called popular girls end up nice, but honestly Lauren just felt unrealistic.

And after five years of bitching about a Big Gulp you think someone would’ve told her to stuff it already.

Just saying.

Overall, this probably isn’t the best book to read if you’re new to Meg Cabot.  In fact, if you are a Cabot virgin I recommend starting with either Diaries or The Mediator and moving on from there. How to be Popular is probably one of her weaker titles.  While it does try to convey a good message, it’s sometimes unintentionally preachy.  Also, while I do like Cabot’s use of pop culture references I couldn’t help but frown at the mention of starlets who passed (RIP Brittany Murphy).  Die hard Cabot fans like myself though, might enjoy this. However, this die hard fan…um, no.

Overall Rating: C-

 

Advertisements

A Revisit: What Would Lola Wear?

 

When I reread Lola and the Boy Next Door for the Isla Is Coming Readalong that is going on right now, I couldn’t help but be in awe with the amazing descriptions Stephanie Perkins used to describe her main characters fashion sense.  So for this revisit post I decided to fuse it with an old feature of mine called What Would _____ Wear and make some Polyvore sets for Lola.  Here’s the thing though, a lot of Lola couture is hard to find.  So, I’ve had to modify some of the outfits.  Hopefully, I still captured the spirit of these looks.

 

 

Meet Lola

 

Meet Lola by howdyal featuring a round top
 “I’m wearing a tank top. I also got on my giant white Jackie O sunglasses, a long brunette wig with emerald tips, and ballet slippers. Real ballet slippers, not the flats that only look like ballet slippers.” (Perkins, 8-9)
My Interpretation: Polyvore doesn’t have any red Chinese style pajamas.  Believed me, I looked.  In fact, finding pajama bottoms that didn’t look like they were fit for a camping trip or the seedy side of town was quite difficult, but I did eventually manage to find a fairly normal looking pair.  The black ballet flats are unfortunately flats.  But I like them enough where I think they’d be a decent substitute.  Since Stephanie didn’t have a particular description with the tank top, I played around with lots of different tanks before settling on this one.  Surprisingly enough, the easiest thing to find was the glasses.
Strawberry Lola

 

“Today I’m a strawberry. A sweet red dress from the fifties, a long necklace of tiny black beads, and a dark green wig cut into a severe Louise Brooks bob.” (Perkins 44).
My interpretation:  This set was actually fairly easy to put together.  The red dress, unfortunately, is not vintage.  I went for a modern dress with a vintage-y feel from Modcloth.  The shoes were added by yours truly since I just couldn’t see Lola going barefoot.  I almost went for a pair of white shoes until I spotted these strappy sandals.  Something about them just seemed so happy to me.  And let’s face it strawberries are a happy fruit.  Or least that’s the impression I have always gotten from that cartoon.
Lola's Sparkly Look

 

 “I placed a rhinestone barrette in my pale pink wig. I’m also wearing a sequined prom gown that I’ve altered into a minidress, a jean jacket covered with David Bowie pins, and glittery false eyelashes.” (83)
My Interpretation: This was probably one of my favorite looks to put together.  It was just so much fun.  I will admit though, I couldn’t find the eyelashes.  So I substituted them with some earrings.  As for the rest of the outfit it’s pretty much standard to the Stephanie’s description ( I hope).  Ironically, the wig is a My Little Pony wig.  Sort of fitting, given the attitude of the outfit.
Lola's Picnic Date

 

I settle on a similarly checked red-and-white halter dress, which I made form an actual picnic blanket from last Fourth of July. I add bright red lipstick and tiny ant-shaped earrings for theme, and my big black platform boots because walking will be involved.” (Perkins 127).
My Interpretation: I had to include the picnic look because that scene was one of my favorites in the book.  There was a lot of leeway with this outfit though.  For one thing, Polyvore doesn’t have dresses made from actual Picnic blankets and I couldn’t find a red and white dress that I liked with a halter type of neckline.  The dress I did end up choosing, while not being an exact match, had the romantic picnic type feel I wanted for the look.  The thing I’m really happy about is the earrings.  Yes, I was able to find actual ant earrings.  Grant it, they were six hundred bucks but still….ant earrings.
Lola as Lindsey

 

 “Per annual tradition, I’m wearing jeans, a nice blouse, a black wig with straight bangs, and red sneakers.” (Perkins, 210)
My Interpretation:  Lindsey is Lola’s best friend who has a Nancy Drew obsession and is described as being sort of plain.  While I tried to keep true to the Lindsey character in this look, I also thought that there’d be a little Lola peaking out.  Which is why I decided that rather than having a plain button up blouse, I’d use one with a little embroidery that would sort of give it a Lola vibe.
Lola Has Her Cake and Eats It Too

 

 “It’s not my costume, which would make Marie Antoinette proud. The pale blue gown is girly and outrageous and gigantic. There are skirts and overskirts, ribbons and trim, beads and lace. The bodice is also lovely, and the stays fit snugly underneath, giving me a flattering figure-the correct body parts are either more slender or more round. My neck is draped in a crystalline necklace like diamonds, and my ears in shimmery earrings like chandeliers. I sparkle with reflected light.”(Perkins, 319).
My Interpretation: I was actually really scared about this look.  Surprisingly though, it was the easiest one to put together. The gods of Polyvore really were helping me out on this one.  I did make one alteration to the described look.  The cake necklace.  Yeah, I sort of couldn’t help but add it when I saw it. And I’m sure Lola would too.

A Revisit: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

I read Anna and the French Kiss way back when I was a relatively new blogger.  When Cuddlebuggery and a few other blogs announced that they were doing a read along of the first to books in Stephanie Perkins And Trilogy (I refuse to call it the Anna trilogy since she’s only the lead in one novel) I couldn’t help but get out the embarrassing covers that make up these books and enjoy them again.  Funny thing is, you forget a lot of things from your first reading experience.  And I found a lot of things about Anna that I had sort of forgot about-both good and both bad.  For this revisit, I thought I’d list the top ten things I forgot about this book:

10) Macaroons: I forgot that this book featured the tasty treat.  And this book was what sort of got me on my foodie quest to have macaroons.  And they’re gluten free.  That makes them even better.

9) Boarding School Can be Fun: I haven’t read a book set in boarding school in awhile.  Let’s face it, most of them are boring and cliche.  You either get something like Gossip Girl but with school uniforms and dorm rooms or there’s some evil spirit haunting the campus and only the New Mary Sue can fight the evil.  However, Anna’s depiction of boarding school is fairly realistic.

8) Movie Mentions: Being a film buff myself I was checking out just how many movies that Anna read.  Surprisingly, I have seen a lot more since I originally read this book (probably because I put them on my list).

7) St. Clair: I forgot how funny and infuriating a character he can be.  I’ve read various things about this guy in other reviews.  And it’s always mixed.  I happen to fall into the like category.  Though upon reread I starting to think I prefer Cricket to Etienne (though ask me next week after I reread Lola to be sure).  I think what I like the best about St. Clair though is that he is such a complex character.  But yeah, there were a couple (okay, a lot) of moments I wanted to deck him.

6) Multiple Relationships: Though it can get a bit Days Of Our Lives-ish I do like the fact that there are multiple relationships, hookups, quasi hookups, and breakups in this book.  Let’s face it, teenagers usually aren’t as monogamous as YA makes them to be.  Though the Days of Our Lives stuff did start getting a little annoying towards the end.

5) Nicholas Sparks Bashing: Because anyone who bashes those books gets a gold star in my book.  For all you fans of The Notebook, it’s not that movie’s fault.  It’s that movie where Richard Gere dies in a mudslide-too ridiculous and cliche for words.  And for that matter, who kills poor Mandy Moore.  That’s just wrong.

4) Thanksgiving/Christmas scenes: This is how you write build up in relationships, authors who love insta love.  Learn it.  Embrace it.  And do it.  If every book would have scenes like this I’d be a happy reader.

3) Side Characters: With Isla coming I’m really paying special attention to any cameos by her or Josh.  Hey, I sort of want to know whose head I’m going to be reading about in a few weeks.  And after a deep (okay, brief) analysis on Josh I know that I’m going to be very interested in him.  He’s a tortured artist.  And I always had a thing for tortured artist type characters.  As for Isla, I like how she’s quiet and reserved in comparison to Josh’s former paramour its going to be an interesting dynamic.

2) Anna can be a real teenager: I remember Lola getting under my nerves (a bit), but I didn’t really remember Anna doing the same until the re-read.  The thing is, it didn’t really bother me.  Like with Lola, it added to the realness element of the book.  The thing is, I might have to rethink about giving Anna my YA best friend necklace.  She’s really not bestie material.  In fact, I’m starting to wonder if maybe-despite her mood swings-if it was Lola I wanted to be friends with.  I still like Anna though, but not as friend material.

1) Paris: If anything I think a big part of what works for Anna is the love that Perkins obviously has for the city of light.  I actually felt like I was in Paris.  Unlike many YA books that take place in foreign countries (I’m looking at you Royally Lost).  Anna’s experiences actually remind me a lot my own when I was studying abroad-save for the fact that I sort of really was forced in my dorm room unlike Anna since I was still in law school at the time.  Oh, and I had no  English/French/American eye candy.

Well, occasionally I'd get out of the study room.

Well, occasionally I’d get out of the study room and end up with pneumonia.  Because being a tourist in the rain…not that smart. 

Overall Thoughts:

I like this book, but I do think I made it up to be better than it actually was in my head.  Reviewing it, I saw faults I didn’t see before and I’m really excited about diving into Lola next week and seeing what I fin.