Meet Maya Van Wagenen, a 13-year-old transplant to the border town of Brownsville, TX, attending a “middle school with gangs, pregnant teens, and frequent drug arrests.” As a girl who’s always struggled to make friends, Maya describes herself as a member of the “Social Outcast group, the lowest level of people at school who aren’t paid to be there.”
Years earlier, browsing though a thrift shop, Maya’s dad purchased a copy of the 1950s book, Betty Cornell’s Teenage Popularity Guide. Maya discovers this book before the start of her 8th grade year, and with the encouragement of her parents, decides to embark upon a social experiment. Maya charts a plan whereby each month she’ll practice a different aspect of Betty Cornell’s advice for gaining popularity: September is figure problems, November is modeling tricks, January is clothes, April is attitude and so on. As Maya navigates her way through pearls, girdles, makeup, crushes and a middle school prom, she chronicles her adventures and the reactions of her classmates in a diary that becomes the basis for this memoir. Is Maya’s experiment a success? Can she become popular following 1950s advice? Maya is a talent beyond her years and adults and teens alike will be charmed by her funny and thoughtful book.