Cliques are to high school like cheerleaders are to pom poms and nerds are to SAT prep tests. And in thinking back to my high school days, I remember how many of us wanted to be popular, a status that became unrecognized as soon as we graduated and entered the “real” world. So for this month’s book recommendation, I chose How Not To Be Popular by Jennifer Ziegler which was published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers in 2008. This sweet, funny book takes a twist on popularity and shows the importance of true friendship.
Maggie knows that having free-spirited hippies for parents isn’t all that it’s cut out to be, especially when they want to show you the world. This means that Maggie’s family only lives in a place for a few months before moving on to a new one once again. After years of having no real home and constantly leaving all of her friends behind (and this time, a boyfriend), Maggie has had enough. She decides that she will not make any friends in her newest home since she will be leaving it anyways.
But when people still seek to befriend Maggie, she realizes that the only way to avoid popularity is to actively seek unpopularity. So she starts showing up to school wearing the wackiest clothing, carrying plants, befriending geeks, and acting crazy. But as all of Maggie’s efforts continue to backfire, she learns the real meaning of popularity. This is a funny, tender story about the underdogs and friendship.
Book Group Questions
- Maggie decides that in order to spare herself pain, she won’t make any friends. What do you think about this choice? How did Maggie’s perception of this concept differ at the end of the story?
- Maggie’s clothes seem out of whack, but then she ends up becoming a trendsetter. Why do you think we try to imitate others, and how does this action play into popularity?
- Why are the true friendships we develop more important than having others perceive you as popular?
- What is popularity? How do we decide that something is popular while something else isn’t?
- Why did all of Maggie’s efforts to be unpopular actually make her popular?