Confession: When I was in fourth grade, my family moved. I immediately latched onto a group of (very nice) girls I admired and wanted to have as friends. They liked a boy, we'll call him Steve. Or one of them liked him. I'm not sure anymore. My shame is not only in pretending to like him, too, but in telling him I did...just to impress these girls. For the next near decade, Steve and his friends made me miserable whenever we happened to be in the same space. Pathetic, right? I am Steph Landry.
by Meg Cabot
From the flap:
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 a lot—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.All Steph has to do is follow the instructions in The Book, and soon she'll be partying with the popular kids (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).But don't forget the most important thing about popularity!It's easy to become popular. What isn't so easy? Staying that way.
This is the book I wish I'd read in high school...no, scratch that. Elementary school. It really does tell the reader how to be popular, but not in a naive, things-your-well-meaning-mom-says-to-you-that-don't-actually-help sort of way. The voice is totally genuine to high school, and the way Meg Cabot lends that realism to the high school scene without being explicitly crass is masterful. This parent approves, and I'm certain teenagers will continue to relate to Steph Landry, even as pop culture evolves past some of her references.
Someone on twitter positively compared the voices of Kiersten White and Meg Cabot, and I definitely see a wonderful similarity. They are both fun, in-the-moment, and witty in a sarcastic, universally teen way. I look forward to hunting down the rest of Meg Cabot's books, just as I plan to devour Paranormalcy in its entirety (when it finally arrives--gah!). The YA world needs more authors with Meg's skill for authentic emotion, matched with a voice that doesn't take everything too seriously.
I'm not always dazzled by contemporary fiction. In fact, it has to be pretty impressive for me to enjoy a story without shiny magical beings or devices. Meg Cabot is an author who brings an impressive element of magic to contemporary YA. The magic is in new experiences, lots of kissing and fireworks, and devastating social situations. When you affect a reader's heart rate, you've succeeded as an author. Not that Meg needs me to add my heartbeat to the millions she's affected already, but add another tally, anyway. I loved this story.