Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for the Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen.

Title- Popular: Vintage Wisdom for the Modern Geek.
Author- Maya Van Wagenen.
Publish date- April 15th, 2014.
Publisher- Penguin Books.

(Goodreads)

Review time...

(A Brief) Synopsis:
Can a Popularity Guide from the 50's be used in our modern life to sucess? That's what Maya Van Wagenen started to wonder, and so she decided to start a project lasting the whole of her 8th grade, to transform herself and follow the guide, for better or worse.


Thank you to Penguin Books Australia for this review copy!


What I thought:
I can't be entirely certain why it was I decided that I wanted to read Popular- sure the synopsis is intriguing and I really like the sytle+feel of the cover, but there was a point somewhere that turned me over, somwehere along the lones of a mention by John Green (probably the presiding piercing of interest) and the fact it makes me think of what was my favourite song for most of 2013.

By the time I knew my review copy was in the post, I had read fellow reviewer Alison Can Read's review and it had struck me completely off guard, because me? I believe in being yourself. Dress how you feel comfortable, don't change yourself for others. I'm vocal about it. Often. And Popular? It's about a girl who changes herself as a 13-14 year old, because she wants to be Popular, and I just hadn't thought about that. I remain horrified, but I suppose it could've been one of those things that is so blindingly obvious you just don't see it.
But anyway- back to this review/story.
I was less excited by the time the book arrived (thank you to Tina and Penguin!), but still stoic and very, very interested.

To describe how I felt as I read would be that I wanted to read as much as I could in as short an amount of time as possible so that it could be over.
In the first two or so chapters I was extremely uncomfortable and would even go so far as to say I wished this book had some sort of a trigger warning- the first chapter is about figure problems + involves weight and dieting to loose it, and this affected me and made me very uncomfortable, and though I knew (from Alison's review) it was a topic, there wasn't any note of it apart from a chapter name until bam! you were confronted. And for someone who is easily affected by such things, and for whom it can become quite troubling and difficult to handle, this was really unfortunate.

I did, later on, feel as if the story and I weren't so at odds, and I felt really proud of Maya by the end for confronting her fears and facing some really difficult things and not always (or all that often) being accepted for it, but I don't believe as it is that all of it was a good thing to do, or wise- or that the journey itself was the right thing to do, as a whole, though I certainly admire her courage and positivity, but right or wrong in anyone else's view, difficult or horrifying, Maya stuck with it and that's commendable no matter what the outcome.

Rating: Hmm.../Poor.
I found it very easy to read, for the most part, and towards the end it was inspiring what she did, but I really can't say I loved it or even really enjoyed it.

Notes that I want to add but didn't fit into the review up there:
Until 131 pages in,  I thought the fact that Maya was following the 50's popularity guide wasn't a secret and if anyone had asked she would've been happy to tell them, but suddenly her mother says she can't tell anyone about the project because it would end it. I hadn't seen any mention regarding it either way before, and it was a shock to learn it was such a secret, not to be told to anyone. A part of me understood, but the other... it didn't feel right, somehow. It made me think the decision to begin the project had been orchestrated instead of in the off-hand-comment-taken-seriously way that Maya describes.

16 comments:

  1. I too read Alison's review on this book. I see a lot of people having a lot of feelings about this book and that is what intrigues me to read it. I don't know why you should change yourself so much to fit in. Though in high school I will say we all go through a period of just trying to not be "not" cool. Girls should be comfortable in what makes them comfortable. Everyone should be comfortable in their own skin so I don't know if it's good to tell other girls to try to be someone they are not.

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    1. I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts on this, if you read it, Angela! I think important points are made in the end of the book, that's where it's no longer about being "popular", but it is perhaps spoilery to speak of them. I thikn the way she evolves is really interesting and would love to read your thoughts on the progression. x

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  2. I don't think I'd enjoy this one either. I had heard of this one before and it never interested me in the slightest.

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    1. It does broach some pretty interesting points, but if it doesn't sound like a book you'd enjoy then I think you're the best to say whether or not you want to read it! I found it susprisingly thought-provoking, though I'm not sure if it was necessairily thought provoking in the way it was intended to be. x

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  3. Oh, I once read something online or in a newspaper about this girl trying out all the beauty secrets of the '50s. I didn't know there was a book about it. Nice review!

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    1. I'm glad that I was able to surprise you about it, then! There is also being a movie made, I believe! x

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  4. Oh what a shame you didn't enjoy this book Romi, I thought it had a fantastic message behind it about being yourself and understanding people on a deeper level. Great review though.

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    1. Thanks, Jeann! I do think it makes a really interesting point, more so at the end than really at any other point throughout the book, but I was just too affected by the fact she was willing to do such an overhaul just to be well liked, changing aspects of body and personality for popularity. Thank you for your comment! x

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  5. When I first heard about this book I thought it would be more light-hearted - like in how ridiculous it is to follow a 50s manual - interesting that it is more earnest, but I can imagine that it is a bit saddening to read about a young girl who wants to change so much of herself. I'm glad it ended well, but it's too bad this was not a great read for you Romi!

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    1. It's really interesting how thoughts prior to reading can effect the reading experience- I wonder how I'd have felt it I went into it thinking it would be as you described, that would be really interesting, Charlene! Thank you for your thoughts! x

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  6. Hmm, so your review is actually the first one I've read so far for this book - and I think the premise would make me a bit uncomfortable, as well! I am sort of intrigued - enough to look up other reviews now - but I do have a feeling I would feel the same as you on this one.

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    1. That's interesting- Aylee, I think you and I feel fairly similarly about books! I would be interested for you to read this just so we could compare thoughts, but if you think it would be an unsatisfying read from the start then I wouldn't like to make you! x

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  7. I think this is the first negative review of this book that I've seen! Most people seem to find it really inspiring, and the narrator/author really relateable etc etc. I don't know if I'll end up reading this book because I'm not really one for memoirs in general, but if I do, I'll keep your comments in mind :)

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    1. Thanks for giving your thoughts, Nara! I've seen a few reviews where the readers were unsatisfied, but it's pretty interesting that you've seen the opposite! I think it's interesting to find out what some people liked and some didn't- when they overcross and a discussion starts that is often super interesting! x

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  8. I can't remember where I first read about this book but I was thinking it would have been really cool to explore the way in which our social structure has changed in that time, and also the ways in which things have stayed the same. If you think about the massive social changes that have occurred since the 1950's it would have been interesting to see how, as a fourteen year old who probably doesn't know a whole lot about every day life in past eras, learns and sees how far we've come from that point. She would have also seen the way in which some of the basic needs and wants of people having changed - inclusion, friends, happiness, success etc.

    But from your review it doesn't sound like this has happened so much? It's why I often have so much trouble finding books I super love because I'm so busy putting my own thoughts on to where it's going/should go and then I don't enjoy the story. :)

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    1. No, or at least I didn't see it happen in that way- not at all. I think there wasn't such a focus on learning about the past- girdles and ways or curling hair were discussed, but it didn't feel like it went along in a huge learning way. She certainly seems to have learned a lot by the end of the novel, but I don't think it was in such a way as you speak of, which would have been really interesting!

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