Review Detail

Kids Fiction 304
All the popular kids are reading THIS.
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
Lily has decided she really needs to leave her private school after an embarrassing incident with mean girl Courtenay, so she plans to use her scientific bent to study how to be popular. Her older sister, Maisie, who is going to high school, is impressively upbeat and popular, and Lily would like to be more like her. Having sifter out five factors of popularity, Lily tries to implement them, and starts off at her new school reinventing herself as her middle name, Blake. Things get off to a rocky start when she shows up at school wearing her lab goggles like a headband, but she manages to talk to one of the soccer players, Ashleigh, and sit at lunch with her and the very cute Parker at lunch. The problem? At her new school, sports players are looked down upon, and the science club has the popular kids! Making an abrupt about face, Blake befriends Owen and Priya, and goes to science club, although she still goes to soccer practice. Priya's older brother is a science rock star, so Priya is very focused on a winning project that positively impacts the world. Owen, however, is secretly playing science related pranks on a variety of people, but also asks Blake out on a date! She is pleased to have the attention of the most popular boy in the school but isn't thrilled about the pranks until he offers to play a big one on Courtenay if she helps him with two pranks. When Blake's best friend, Kat, shows up at her new school, Blake panics. She's told Kat a bit about her popularity project, but can't get Kat to really understand that art is not a "popular" pursuit, and really can't get Kat behind the pranks.
Good Points
The twist with the science kids being the popular ones was very fun, and I really enjoyed how they are just as troubled in their own way as some athletes are portrayed in middle grade literature. The idea of reinventing oneself has been around since the 1950s; I was a big fan of Conford's 1981 Seven Days to a Brand-New Me. I enjoyed the family dynamics, with Maisie having secrets of her own, and the parents being in the back ground but having a few interests of their own-- the father is training for a marathon to impress his brother-in-law, and understands Blake's reasons for wanting to change her approach to middle school. A fun, quick read.

I didn't care for how Blake found the pranks fun even though she says she didn't like them. I've never had any patience for pranks that involve physically messing with someone; most of these involved liquid, paint, or slime dropping on someone, which is just mean. If tweens want to read about this, that's fine; I just hope they don't attempt any of them.

This is somewhat similar to Kinard's 2012 The Boy Project with shades of Haddix's 2012 Game Changers and is a great addition to the WISH novels, which are super, super popular with my readers. I never understood the need to be popular, but it is apparently more of a concern than I thought, according to a random selection of 6th graders I polled.

Great examples of the self-improvement genre range from Wilson's 1957 Always Anne to Cabot's 2006 How to Be Popular to Moskovitz-Palmer's 2020 summer camp themed Camp Clique. This is being issued in paperback, so is a great choice as a gift for an avid reader who is starting middle school.
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