American contemporary, Books for Everyone, Cross over, Funny Books, multicultural cast, Personal Faves, Poignant Coming-of-Age Story, Spring, YA

YA Gets a 1950s Make-Over: Popular Review


Holy stars did I love this book! Fifteen year old (yes, 15!) Maya Van Wagenen is smart, funny, achingly honest and a total star. In grade 8 she decided to follow the advice of a 1950s style guide, BETTY CORNELL’S TEEN-AGE POPULARITY GUIDE (which is also being republished by Dutton at the same time, GREAT kitschy spot illustrations and all) in an attempt to become more popular. The results are a warm and truthful look at what it’s like to feel invisible, go on a diet, play with fashion, overcome shyness, deal with boys, try new things, and just put yourself out there in general. Basically, what it’s like to be a girl on the cusp of teenhood. I wish I had read this when I was in grade 8. I’m thrilled I read it in my 30s.

This book is a fantastic read for girls heading into high school, that time when you contemplate who you are and whether or not you should reinvent yourself. Don’t let the fashion and beauty angle dissuade you if that is not your thing. Yes, there are hilarious sections on what sort of jewelry (pearls, obvi) and clothes (so much nylon) you should wear, makeup tips (light lipstick, leave your eyes alone) diet and exercise suggestions (actually pretty reasonable), but it also talks about the importance of being kind, saying thank you, overcoming shyness, and being yourself. Above all else the book is about Maya finding her confidence in a non-threatening, totally relate-able way. What girl DOESN’T need that?


It’s also a fantastic book for an adult audience. People who like inspirational/aspirational memoirs such as THE HAPPINESS PROJECT, enjoy 1950s kitsch, or love a coming of age story will eat this one up. I loved how supportive and loving her family was, I enjoyed her anecdotes about sitting with a different group at lunch everyday, and most of all, I just wanted more of Maya. Trust me, this is going to be big. The movie rights have been snatched up and Maya will be everywhere soon. This is one up and coming teenager you’ll be happy to cheer for.

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek will be available in hardcover next week from Penguin Canada

3 thoughts on “YA Gets a 1950s Make-Over: Popular Review”

  1. I put this on hold when I read your review. Just finished the book last week and what a young woman that Maya is! Wow, this was a great read. This girl has a bright future ahead of her. I told Shaun he should be plugging this book to his 7s and 8s. I mean, she wrote a book!!! And is so wise. I just loved it.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it! I was thoroughly charmed and more than a little impressed. I think it’s PERFECT for grade 7/8 girls- so inspiring but not in anyway condescending. Can’t wait to see what she does next!

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