This summer I was over at my mom's going through some things from my youth and found several diaries from middle and high school. I glanced through the entries that mostly consisted of "Went to the football game", "Hung out at the mall", "Stalked the cute guy who works at the bowling alley". Given my lack of meaningful (or even remotely interesting) teen years writing content, I am always somewhat suspicious when I see teen memoirs. What could they possibly have to write about in their short lives? Well plenty it turns out! In her brand, spankin’ new book, Popular a memoir: Vintage wisdom for a modern geek, Maya van Wagenen tells us about the school year she spent figuring out the meaning of popularity and trying to achieve it. At first, this sounds like what many middle and high school students attempt, but here’s the twist: she used a book written for teens in 1951 for her popularity experiment!
When Maya’s family was clearing out the house one month, she came upon a book her dad had bought at a garage sale, Betty Cornell’s Teenage Popularity Guide, and thus was born an exciting but scary idea. Each month of her 8th grade year she would read a chapter and then put into practice Cornell’s advice. Hilarity ensues as she buys and wears a girdle, tries out a bunch of different hairstyles including a Princess Leia-esque do (“Love your buns, Maya!”), and infiltrates different cliques at their lunch tables. Does Maya go from being an introverted sort-of-slob to a neat-as-a-pin, pearl-wearing popularity princess? Can advice from the 1950s still be relevant to today’s teens? Read Popular and find out!
Take a look at this list for some memorable teen memoirs.