How Not to Be Popular

How Not to Be Popular

4.1 86
by Jennifer Ziegler

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Maggie Dempsey is tired of moving all over the country. Her parents are second-generation hippies who uproot her every year or so to move to a new city. When Maggie was younger, she thought it was fun and adventurous. Now that she’s a teenager, she hates it. When she moved after her freshman year, she left behind good friends, a great school, and a real feeling


Maggie Dempsey is tired of moving all over the country. Her parents are second-generation hippies who uproot her every year or so to move to a new city. When Maggie was younger, she thought it was fun and adventurous. Now that she’s a teenager, she hates it. When she moved after her freshman year, she left behind good friends, a great school, and a real feeling of belonging. When she moved her sophomore year, she left behind a boyfriend, too. Now that they’ve moved to Austin, she knows better. She’s not going to make friends. She’s not going to fit in. Anything to prevent her from liking this new place and them from liking her. Only . . . things don’t go exactly as planned.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

AGERANGE: Ages 12 to 18.

The nomadic lifestyle of her free-spirit parents has moved Sugar Magnolia "Maggie" Dempsey so often that it seems just as she gets her bearings in one place, she is on to the next. After leaving her latest BFF and boyfriend behind, Maggie embarks on Operation Avoid Friends (OAF) upon arriving in Austin, Texas. Instead of trying to fit in, Maggie does the absolute opposite, taking great pains to be an oddball and not connecting with anyone. She believes it is a foolproof plan to avoid getting hurt when her parents inevitably decide to move on. Each chapter begins with a tip about how not to be popular and proceeds to detail Maggies attempt to implement that tip. Try as she might, Maggie can not seem to turn off other people and be totally ostracized. Her personality somehow shines through her many disguises. This book could have easily been a predictable, trite read. Several plot elements have been fodder for teen movies; however, the characters are engaging and the references to literature and culture are smart. The insightful voice of the narrator rings true, infused with a great sense of humor as Maggie details the high school landscape replete with its cliques, pressures, and possible romance. Maggie has flaws and makes mistakes in judgment, but she clearly grows and learns valuable lessons during her time in Austin. It is an enjoyable, satisfying read that will be instantly popular with girl readers. Reviewer: Erin Wyatt
April 2008 (Vol. 31, No. 1)

Sugar Magnolia Dempsey (Maggie for short) is moving for the tenth time since high school started because her carefree, hippie parents think that moving gives them better karma. Usually Maggie makes friends with the popular crowd when she moves to a new place, but this time, she creates a unique plan to not be popular so that it won't hurt as much when they move again. She dresses in crazy Halloween-like outfits and tries to be eccentric and weird so that no one will want to be friends with her. Through creatively humorous scenarios, Maggie's plan is put into action, but she doesn't predict that she will end up with more faithful friends then she has ever known. People start to follow her purposely awful fashion trends and quirky lifestyle because they think she is "real," which becomes the new "cool" at her high school. When Maggie realizes her popularity, she disowns her friends to stick to her plan. In a clever twist, Maggie learns that her parents have decided not to move again. The book ends with Maggie working hard to right the wrongs. While it's a positive and touching ending, Maggie does not get the "easy way out" or the happy-ever-after ending. Her character adds a witty, fresh perspective to the YA literature scene. Age Range: Ages 12 to 18. REVIEWER: Ashleigh Larsen (Vol. 42, No. 1)
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up- Smarting from her recent breakup and on the road to Austin, TX, with her hippie parents who have decided, yet again, to relocate, Sugar Magnolia-known as Maggie-crafts an extreme plan to avoid emotional pain the next time she has to move. Instead of endearing herself to the local popular clique-a technique she has perfected as part of her family's vagabond lifestyle-she decides to shun friendship and popularity in her new town. To that end, she comes to school in bizarre castoffs from her parents' thrift shop and forges a casual relationship with a group of school outcasts. When the success of a group project leads the teen to recognize her growing feelings of warmth toward those misfits, she has to decide whether or not to make a dramatic statement equivalent to social suicide. Ziegler's novel is fun but somewhat fantastic and concludes with a rather made-for-TV-movie school assembly scene. The book has heart, however, and cliché set pieces aside (Maggie's antifashion statements become school-wide trends and her success leads to the takedown of the queen bee cheerleader), it has a sweet story of friendship at its core. A low current of romance hums beneath the surface; that Ziegler's story does not conclude with a pat resolution of this tension adds an element of realism.-Amy S. Pattee, Simmons College, Boston

Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"Zippy and full of wit, Ziegler’s work is engaging, touching, and full of laughs." - Rob Thomas, author of Rat Saw God and creator of Veronica Mars

“Maggie and Jack’s relationship rings true, adding an irresistible sincerity to both characters that allows Maggie’s self-discovery and growth to unfold naturally. Thoughtful and fun.”—Kirkus Reviews

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
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Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Tip: Popular girls never go anywhere by themselves. Thus, it must also stand to reason that the unpopular are always alone.

First days of school always make me feel extra alive. My senses just seem magically improved. It’s like I can fully live in the moment and simultaneously float along beside myself, carefully recording everything for later viewing. And this, I know, will become a treasured memory. The kind that replays in full color and digital surround sound, with credits rolling at the end. This will be the day I finally figure out my life. The day I overcome the burden of being a Traveling Dempsey. Today I begin Operation Avoid Friends (OAF?).

Knowing I have nothing to lose this time around makes me feel better about the whole situation. To tell the truth, I’m even a little excited about it.

Of course, this is the first day of school only for me. Everyone else has been here for over two weeks. That’s another thing about my parents: they can’t be on time for anything. First they took their own sweet hippie time making it to Austin; then yesterday they had the entire day to officially enroll me at Lakewood High, but when did we walk in the door? At a quarter to five. The registrar was just about to shut down her computers—something she reminded us of several times as she raced through the enrollment process. Of course Les and Rosie didn’t seem to notice. As Les slowly filled out forms in his ornate handwriting, the lady kept tapping her car keys against her desk. But Rosie just hummed along with the rhythm.

So here I am, getting my first glimpse of Lakewood’s teen population. The students don’t look all that different from Portland kids. Or Seattle or Berkeley or Boulder or Madison or Santa Fe kids, for that matter. All the typical groupings are here. This is my tenth high school, so as you can imagine, I’ve gotten really good at figuring out the cliques and the power rankings, just by noticing the way kids dress and act.

Hanging at the edge of the parking lot, under a cloud of cigarette smoke, are the Thugs, aka Burnouts, Stoners, or Fry-Boys. Rockers and Skaters are subsets of this group, and they overlap like Venn diagrams for partying purposes. Trevor was a part of this group in Portland; shaggy-haired Skaters were the dominant breed there, but it’s obviously different in Austin. Here they seem to be of skinnier, squirrelier stock and they aren’t surrounded by a gaggle of admiring girls.

Sitting at a couple of picnic tables on the front lawn are the Brains. Or Nerds, Honor Roll Dweebs, Debate Club Dorks, or Goobers. Judging by all the big black instrument cases, I’d say most of them take band, which is typical. At other schools I’ve learned that almost all superbrain students take band or orchestra, but not all band or orchestra students are superbrains. Band as phylum, Brains as genus.

Swarming around a stone wall that separates the parking lot from the school is what I guess to be the art and/or theater crowd. A guy in camo pants and a T-shirt with something ironic on it (I’m too far away to read it) is reenacting some outrageous sketch with a bad British accent. Meanwhile his peers cheer him on. A Goth couple in the front is really cracking up, which makes me smile. It’s always funny to see Goths laugh.

And finally, scattered about the covered walkway leading to the school’s front doors are the heads of the high school ecosystem. This category differs slightly from school to school, but usually it includes perfect poser types with an overabundance of money and power. In this case, preppy jocks appear to be the ruling class—mainly guys with football-player builds, spiky flattop hairdos, and urban designer clothes.

There are a few pretty girls sprinkled in with them, but mainly as accessories. I haven’t yet spotted the school’s ruling females, the crowd I typically try to integrate with.

Being part of the power clique means you’re auto- matically protected to a degree. You get access to the best clubs and parties and sometimes have more privileges at school. Everything is just easier. I’ve never made top tier, but I’ve almost always been part of that scene—until this time, that is. Under the rules of my antipopularity plan, I can’t associate with any friendworthy people. Instead I’m going to be one of those weird outsider types—the ones who are always by themselves and give off lots of keep-away vibes. The kind of person no one notices after a while.

“Hey! New girl!” One of the alpha guys calls out to me. He’s cute. Real cute, in fact. Dark blond hair, strong jaw, dimples. I know I’m trying to avoid people, but this guy is so gorgeous it’s hard to look away. “Where’re you from?” he drawls, adding extra emphasis to “you.”

I hear my response in my head. All over the place. It’s a struggle, but I don’t let it out. Instead I tear my gaze off him and fiddle with my messenger bag, hoping he’ll lose interest. Just being near a guy reminds me of Trevor.

“Hey, you! I’m talking to you!” He raises his voice, and out of the corner of my eye, I notice that his pals all turn their heads simultaneously. Even a couple of passersby slow down to watch.

I wish he’d just declare me a weirdo and move on, but instead he hops down off his perch and walks up next to me. His cohorts pivot around, their faces gleaming expectantly.

“Didn’t you hear me?” the guy asks. He leans forward, hovering his face over mine as if to give the best possible view of his perfect cheekbones and navel-sized dimples.

A warm sensation trickles through me—probably hormones. This is the type of guy girls embarrass themselves for, a guy who could possibly help me get over Trevor… but even on the bizarro chance we hooked up (which isn’t likely), who would help me get over him when we move in four months?

As I stand there, sifting through my jumbled thoughts, the guy’s face slowly flattens. “Man, what’s wrong with you?” he asks. “Just trying to be friendly here.”

“Blow her off, Miles,” calls out one of his guy pals. “She’s probably got someone else giving it to her.” Denied any entertainment, the crowd turns back toward the other approaching students.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Jennifer Ziegler is the author of Alpha Dog. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her family.

From the Hardcover edition.

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How Not to Be Popular 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 86 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was funny some of the parts i almost cryed but it was really good but to much cusing they should make a move best book ever.This book is for13 and it so much
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this book! It got me thinking of what it would be like to get to change and choose my personality. I would try so many things. Anyways like i said this book was an awesome read!
Ashlen Wright More than 1 year ago
I truly enjoyed this book! I would definitaly recomend this book to all types of people..... 215 pages
EdwardCullenLuvr11 More than 1 year ago
everyone MUST read this. i know when you read reviews you find one bad comment and one good and you're torn. but this book is sooo amazing you shouldnt be. just go buy it...NOW! i read it in 2 days and it ws funny, intereseting, romantic, and the main character is so much fun to follow!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I liked this book a lot. I can totally relate. School for me is just like this, all about the populars, hard etc.... I just enjoyed reading it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished this book, after buying it because I thought that it sounded funny. The tips on the back were interesting, and intriqued me into reading the book. Although what I did not like was that Maggie was pretending to be something that she wasn't, and then finally she realized that the 'losers' of the school were not so bad. Also, this book has no climax. Where does the story get interesting? It really drags on in quite a few places, and to be honest is not a book that I enjoyed reading. A teenager's life is not like that, trust me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I know some people have read it is it good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this book was very interesting and had caught my attention when i was online book shopping. the story is very funny  and  the relationships between the characters feel real. though it made me cringe every once in a while when she would well try to to be popular i think that is the part that made this book very unique and exceptional. you just have to read this book its so good!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thus book was wonderful. I loved evrey part of it and it had a great ending
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book its for hopeless romantics
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Never could actually manage to put this book down
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This bookis absolutly amazing. Sure the main xharachter makes me bad choices and stuff but over all this book teaches a great lesson
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing!! I the story she tells and how you can feel what Maggie is going through throughout the book. The book is funny, too, which makes it even better. The book is about a girl named Sugar Magnolia Dempsey. Her parents are hippies who love to travel the world. But now that Maggie is in high school and she has to say goodbye to besties and a boyfriend in Portland. So Maggie's plan is to make her stay in Austin terrible. Now operation be unpopular has commenced.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kinda funny
AsianNerd More than 1 year ago
I would've rated this four or five stars, but I just hated the main character. I understood her logic, but she just judged others too much. she should just "follow her heart." The main character-I forgot her name-seemed stupid to me. She's all like "I don't like this nerd" and "Oh my god! He's hot now!" She's so annoying. Afterwards, she betrayed the people in the Helping Hands club for the popular group because she's all like "Oh my gosh, these are the people I won't miss. I should hang out with them instead." Sorry if you think I should to rough. I have my dislike-radar on. Overall, I would rate this to two point five, but the rating won't do that so I chose to rate this a three.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hey guys this book is amazing for any ages, it is worth the money so get it!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I did't get the book on my amazing nook but I do own it and I must say it is a great book! :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was so funny.i was reading it in class in i got introble for laughing so muvh that is how funny if i could give this book to everyone in the world i would. Really really funny
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An amazing book, and since I know the author, I can tell you that she's just as awesome!!!