I used to be the blogger called YAL Book Briefs, but I grew bored of the handle and changed my name to Howdy YAL. I also respond to MJ. I like to read, write, eat truffles, and watch bad Lifetime movies.
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?
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.
I almost felt like Jason was some prize given to Steph at the end for making good life choices.
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.
It's 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.
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.