How Not to be Popular

by Jennifer Ziegler
ages: 13+
First sentence: “Oh crap.”

Sugar Magnolia Dempsey — Maggie to everyone but Les and Rosie, her parents — is tired of moving. She’s been moving all her life, mostly because Les and Rosie — second-generation hippies, determined to see the country, Buddhist in philosophy, convinced that family is all they need, and hilarious as characters — can’t seem to settle down. Which is all fine and good, except Maggie had a life — good friends and even a boyfriend — in Portland, and she’s been dragged to Austin, Texas because her mom has enrolled in a massage therapy certification program.

When her boyfriend breaks up with her, via email, three weeks after she left, she decides that the hurt must stop. So. To soothe her wounded heart, and to protect herself from the inevitable move, she decides that what she really needs is to be the opposite of popular. Instead of ingratiating herself into the in-crowd, like she has in the past, she’s going to go the “loser” way: tacky clothes, terrible accessories, the “wrong” friends, the “wrong” crowd.

There are moments of sheer hilarity among the stereotyped high school characters. The popular kids, the Bippys, are mean snobs. The losers, of course, are real and nice and fun to be with. Maggie’s perceptions and observations of high school life are spot-on, even if she’s a bit backward in her thinking. Which is why it all (of course) backfires on her. And she’s left to figure her way out of the mess.

I liked this book, but I think what I liked best about it was hearing M read it first. She shared with me bits and pieces of it — she loved Hank and Frank and Drip and even Jack , saying that they were her crowd. Penny’s love of Mr. Spock cracked her up. As did the fact that Jack wore a tie on his date with Maggie (“Dude, you DON’T wear a tie on a date!”). She even cried a little at the end.

You can’t get a better recommendation than that.

Buy it at: Amazon, Powell’s, or your local independent bookstore.

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