Review | Popular: Vintage Wisdom…by Maya Van Wagenen

Random Fact of the Day: Sloths take two weeks to digest their food.

Title: Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek

Author(s): Maya Van Wagenen

Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, YA

Page Count: 272

Published: April 15th, 2014

Format: Paperback

Source: Purchased

BUY HERE: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

A touchingly honest, candidly hysterical memoir from breakout teen author Maya Van Wagenen.

Stuck at the bottom of the social ladder at pretty much the lowest level of people at school who aren’t paid to be here,” Maya Van Wagenen decided to begin a unique social experiment: spend the school year following a 1950s popularity guide, written by former teen model Betty Cornell. Can curlers, girdles, Vaseline, and a strand of pearls help Maya on her quest to be popular?

The real-life results are painful, funny, and include a wonderful and unexpected surprise—meeting and befriending Betty Cornell herself. Told with humor and grace, Maya’s journey offers readers of all ages a thoroughly contemporary example of kindness and self-confidence.”

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So before reading & actually hearing about this novel, I think I first heard about it from Christine @polandbananasBOOKS on Booktube. She seemed to love this novel a lot, and I have to say I entirely agree with here. Now let’s get more into depth…

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NARRATION: 4.5/5 stars

The whole novel is narrated by our main character, Maya, who tells the story of her way through dealing with bullies, self-confidence, family, etc. The main idea of this novel is to illustrate to readers how she went through with her social experiment, and I definitely, too, experienced the unique day-by-day experiment she described. She doesn’t sugar coat anything, no matter how heart-breaking the experiment got — she tells her journey how it is and I love that about this memoir. Maya is a great figure who demonstrates and finds the true definition of “popularity”. She is very honest and full of humour, which adds to the genuinity of this novel.

WRITING: 4.5/5 stars

I definitely found Maya’s voice in this memoir, however I am not sure that I got the ENTIRE piece. This memoir was written by Maya at the age of fifteen, so there is a possibility that part of what she wrote didn’t get into being published. However, besides that I was very impressed. While we did get Maya’s narration, we also got to read segments from the novel she was referring to throughout the novel, “Betty Cornell Teen-Age Popularity Guide“. I thought this added a great aspect to the novel, for it felt that I was also following these steps along with Maya. Like mentioned before, Maya and the other minor characters were fairly amusing & diverse, and the author did represent every major character well.

THE FEELS: 3/5 stars

While this novel was a little sentimental at times, it was mostly a fun coming-of-age memoir. You learn a lot about Maya, such as the illness and eventual death of a teacher, the death of her infant sister 8 years prior, and incidents that arose involving the Mexican border. This definitely got me a little shaken up, just because you really get into Maya’s head and you feel what she was feeling.


This memoir was great. There was such a diversity when it came to characters, and Maya is definitely someone to be impressed by. Her writing as a fifteen year old is engaging, and I think this novel could resign with anyone willing to read a quick & interesting memoir. Maya’s journey is beautifully illustrated (literally, lol. Sometimes there are mini photographs of what Maya is narrating) and the experiment all together was a way for readers to be introduced to important topics such as death, life as a teenager, and self-confidence. I found myself relating to her on many levels, and overall I could say that this novel was inspirational. The original idea of this novel was very intriguing and there is a message for everyone to take back when finished reading.

So what’s the ultimate verdict?

I gave Maya Van Wagenen’s, Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek, a…

4.5 out of 5 stars

Have you read this memoir? Can you recommend some fantastic memoirs to me? Chat with me in the comments! 🙂

Thanks for reading & I’ll see you next time…




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3 responses to “Review | Popular: Vintage Wisdom…by Maya Van Wagenen

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