Sunday, August 18, 2013

How to Write a Young Adult Novel

How Not to be Popular
by Jennifer Ziegler
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
4 Out of 5 Stars

Definitely one of my more enjoyable forays into young adult literature. Sugar Magnolia "Maggie" Dempsey is the surprisingly well-adjusted daughter of hippie parents. While loving and supportive, her restless parents uproot Maggie every few months and move to another part of the country. As a young girl, Maggie loved the adventure and diversity of her parents' nomadic lifestyle. However, Maggie is now in high school and this latest move has resulted in a break-up with her first serious boyfriend. Tired of making friends only to tearfully leave them a few months later, Maggie decides that she will protect herself this time by refusing to make friends. Thus begins her quest to become unpopular.

The book is laugh out loud funny as Maggie does her best to shun popularity through a series self-inflicted, horrifyingly embarrassing situations. The problem is that she's unwittingly setting trends as she goes against the social hierarchy of her new school. No matter how hard she tries to be a social outcast, she becomes the new "it" girl.

What makes the novel so relatable is Maggie. Maggie's smart, but not precocious. She's level-headed, but not so much so that she doesn't screw things up along the way. She's neither obnoxiously mature or immature--she just seems like a real teenager. And, to top it all off, she's funny and not wistfully pining for a vampire--my current requirements for young adult heroines.

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