How to Be Popular

How to Be Popular - Kate Reinders, Meg Cabot Full review also posted here on TotalTeenFiction

This review is of the audiobook edition.

Plot review:
This was my first experience of reading (or in this case listening to!) Meg Cabot and she's an author I've always wanted to read. I was drawn to this book by the title because it sounded right up my street! The book follows Steph Landry in her conquest to go from social outcast to one of the most popular students in school using a book she discovers that gives hints and tips on how to be popular.

There's so much to love about this story! Firstly I loved Steph and her friends. They're the sort of outsider group at school who look have distanced themselves from the popular kids. Then Steph decides she's on a mission to be popular which causes all kinds of tension. I still found Steph to be a really likable character, because we get to see her before her descent into popularity when she has a great relationship with her best friends Jason and Becca. I also really liked the relationship between her and her grandfather which was a constant throughout the book.

I instantly found this book to be relatable. The opening chapters of the book see Steph counting down to the first day of school, which is when she plans on launching her mission to become popular. I think we've all been the one counting down to the first day back after the summer holidays. I know I used to fuss about how I wore my hair that day or what school bag I was going to use! Of course in this book there's no school uniform so Steph is stressing a lot over what she's going to wear. I just thought it captured that teenage dream of wanting to reinvent yourself perfectly!

The book also dealt with some pretty serious issues. I'd say some of the stuff Steph went through during the course of the book was verging on cyber bullying, and she'd definitely been a victim of some not so nice attention in the past. Her desire to reinvent herself stemmed from an incident with the popular girl Lauren when they were kids, in which Steph spilled a red drink over her. Ever since then, her small town has caught on to the phrase "pulling a Steph Landry" which understandably Steph hates. It was interesting seeing her try and turn that around and show those people who she really was.

There's a lot of potential relationship drama dotted throughout the story, all of which I loved. Steph is hoping to win over popular boy Mark Finley once she's established herself amongst the cool kids, but from the start I was so rooting for Jason who Steph is totally in denial about having feelings for. I just thought the relationship between Jason and Steph was brilliant because, again, it was something so true to life. They're friends but there's so much sexual tension between the two of them! I was practically screaming at my iPod willing the two of them to get together.

I thought it was great how, although the main focus of this book is about Steph becoming popular, there's also some great little subplots in there. From Steph's grandfather's upcoming marriage and Steph's mum disapproving, to Jason potentially liking somebody else, to the talent auction that Steph has helped organise.

Also I adored how the book Steph is reading was incorporated into the story. We get little excerpts at the beginning of chapters which fitted in with the story and really helped mix up the narrative a bit. It helped get that insight into what Steph was reading and thinking as well.

I usually mark a book down if the plot is a bit predictable and I was expecting this book to go that way, but I just found myself rooting for the things I was hoping would happen at the end and enjoying everything too much to worry about it being predictable. It definitely gave me so much more than I was expecting and I'm wondering why on earth I haven't read this author sooner!

Plot rating: 5*

Audio review:
Firstly, this is a book I'm definitely going to recommend you listen to on audiobook because it was hilarious, and I think a large part of my enjoyment of this book was Kate Reinders' narration. She had the voice of Steph absolutely spot on! I really felt like I was inside her head and the book felt just like she was speaking to me. The book is written in first person so having it read aloud really added something to the story.

What was great about the narration was that Kate Reinders was clearly completely immersed in the character, and when it came to things like Steph laughing during a sentence she'd add in a little laugh herself which made it so much more natural. I really loved her voice for the other characters as well, especially Steph's best friend Becca who's kind of wistful. The voice for that was just spot on.

The only flaw I can really point out is that this book relies on little excerpts from the book Steph is herself reading. Obviously in the physical edition, these excerpts would be in a different font or separated from the rest of the text. In the audio it was sometimes hard to tell straight away that what was being read was an excerpt from Steph's book. I also felt the same way when emails were dotted into the story. That probably would have worked better written down.

But overall I can honestly say that I think my experience of this book would have been a lot different had I not listened to it, and it's not often I really say that. It was the most fun I've had listening to a book in a long time! If you can grab this book on audio then do it - you won't regret it!

Audio rating: 4*

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