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My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan

My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan

4.2 10
by Seth Rudetsky

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Justin has two goals for sophomore year: to date Chuck, the hottest boy in school, and to become the king of Cool U, the table in the cafeteria where the "in" crowd sits.

Unfortunately, he has the wrong look (short, plump, Brillo-pad curls), he has the wrong interests (Broadway, chorus, violin), and he has the wrong friends (Spencer, into Eastern religions, and


Justin has two goals for sophomore year: to date Chuck, the hottest boy in school, and to become the king of Cool U, the table in the cafeteria where the "in" crowd sits.

Unfortunately, he has the wrong look (short, plump, Brillo-pad curls), he has the wrong interests (Broadway, chorus, violin), and he has the wrong friends (Spencer, into Eastern religions, and Mary Ann,  who doesn't shave her armpits). And Chuck? Well, he's not gay; he's dating Becky, a girl in chorus with whom Justin is friendly.

But Justin is determined.

In detention one day (because he saw Chuck get it first), Justin comes up with a perfect plan: to allow Becky to continue dating Chuck, whom Becky's dad hates. They will pretend that Becky is dating Justin, whom Becky's dad loves. And when Becky and Justin go out on a fake date, Chuck will meet up with them for a real date with Becky. Chuck's bound to find Justin irresistable, right? What could go wrong?

Seth Rudetsky's first novel for young adults is endearingly human, and laugh-out-loud funny, and any kid who ever aspired to Cool U will find Justin a welcome ally in the fight for popularity.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Justin, the 15-year-old narrator of actor/writer Rudetsky’s (Broadway Nights) droll YA debut, wants more than anything to be popular and to land the attention of Chuck, the handsome school quarterback. His obstacles include his looks (he’s overweight), Chuck’s heterosexuality, and constant bullying by some of his classmates. When Justin learns that Chuck and his girlfriend, Becky, need to hide their relationship from Becky’s father, he sees an opportunity—pretending to date Becky and covering for the lovebirds—while also getting to spend more time with Chuck. Justin’s plan is met with skepticism by his best friend, Spencer, whose attempts to help Justin overcome his shallowness generally fail. Rudetsky avoids lettings things spiral so far out of control that they turn into slapstick, but he throws in enough misunderstandings to keep the humor and drama flowing. The bullying subplot wraps up too neatly and with too few consequences, and Justin’s real 11th-hour romance is also too easy, but Justin’s acerbic narration compensates, making this an energetic twist on the typical high school romance and hijinks novel. Ages 12–up. (Jan.)
VOYA - Caitlyn Augusta
Out of desperation (and an innate love of drama), "school loser" Justin Goldblatt develops a popularity plan. Rather than 'being himself,' as his best friend Spencer advises, Justin will reinvent himself so that he ascends to the upper echelons of high school society, winning the love of his crush, high school quarterback Chuck Jansen. Chuck is currently dating Becky, but her father does not approve, so Justin finds a way to twist their forbidden romance to his advantage. Justin starts dating Becky as a front for Becky's dates with Chuck, figuring out along the way the true characters of Chuck, Becky, and Spencer. As with all campy teen fiction, the final showdown takes place at the school dance, with Justin getting a chance to meddle to his heart's content before settling down into high school bliss. What will sell this novel to teens, gay or straight, is Justin's vivacious voice. His exuberant obsessions will drag readers along in his wake just to view the spectacle he creates. He is over-the-top and yet endearingly real. The story is entirely predictable, but how Justin arrives at his moment of revelation is entertaining in the extreme. Students who are interested in theater will find Justin's Gleek-like interest in all things Broadway another reason to root for this quirky underdog character. Talk this title up as a hilarious example of the inside story of high school popularity. Reviewer: Caitlyn Augusta
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Sophomore Justin Goldblatt has simple goals for this school year: get a boyfriend, have his first kiss, and, most importantly, become popular. But these are lofty ambitions considering that the object of his affection is the handsome school quarterback who is dating the quintessential beautiful and nice girl. And then there's the fact that Justin is less popular than the weird kid who started high school at age nine. Is Justin's plan awesome or awful—or maybe a bit of both? In his young adult debut, Rudetsky has crafted a laugh-out-loud story about the ups and downs of high school. Justin is a delightfully normal kid in search of his perfect first kiss. Though the characters might be blends of the usual stereotypes (handsome jock; homophobic bully; clueless, but well-meaning parents), the novel's upbeat and sassy tone serves readers the typical teen romance from a gay perspective.—Elaine Baran Black, Georgia Public Library Service, Atlanta
Kirkus Reviews
Chubby, Broadway-obsessed gay goofball Justin Goldblatt pines after swoony, blond, blue-eyed Chuck, the douchebag quarterback of the football team who's dating the school's hottest girl, Becky. Opportunity rears its persuasive head when he learns that Becky's dad despises Chuck, and the only option for the two of them to see each other is for Justin to pretend he's Becky's new boyfriend. Of course, not all goes as planned, and their carefully laid plans fall apart: Becky crushes on Justin, and Justin loses his best friend in the shuffle. Rudetsky's first teen novel is full-on fluff. Readers will definitely identify with Justin's pursuit of his crush, but too often his character's flakey-ness and silly disposition causes him to make stupid, thoughtless decisions that could cause him to lose both his readers' respect and their interest. Stock characters, predictable plot devices and unmemorable dialogue abound. Broadway themes run amok, and theatrically inclined readers can expect plenty of references to Wicked, Phantom, Cats and more. The novel's conclusion itself unfolds like a jukebox musical--predictably canned, with lots of high drama, public unmaskings and a showstopping musical number that will leave readers wondering why they had to read so long to get where they knew there were going in the first place. Not much style, not much substance, but suitable for younger readers. (Romance. 12 & up)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt


TRY TO FIGURE OUT WHICH boy I have the biggest crush on. Is it Quincy Slatton, the science genius sure to win a Westinghouse Scholarship? Is it Tally Higgins, the stoner who is always seen at school, but never in class? Is it Gary Burns, the shy introvert who blushes when you say hi but comes alive in the art room?

No, it’s none of them. Why should it be? There’s at least a slight possibility that someday I could date one of them. Instead, I’ve made it as difficult as possible for myself to ever fulfill my dreams of love. Yes, I, Justin Goldblatt, the school loser, have a crush on the oldest chestnut in the book--the unattainable star quarterback, Chuck Jansen! How cliche is that?

FYI, that’s pronounced “clee-shay.” In English class today, David Chasen was reading a Guy de Maupassant story out loud and pronounced it “clysh.” Everybody, including Mr. Fabry, laughed. Even though I felt bad for David, I joined in. It felt good to finally not be the reason the class was laughing. Usually after I speak in class, Doug Gool will cough “faggot” into his fist. He does it in such a way that the teacher doesn’t hear, but everybody else does. He’s been doing it for so many years at this point that he’s started to vary the words that he coughs--sometimes it’s fag, sometimes queer, sometimes gay. I guess I should applaud his creativity. Lately, he’s been using various themes, depending on what the class is focusing on: We’re studying Pilgrims in social studies, so he’ll cough “Thou art gay” in my direction, and since we’re learning the periodic table in earth science, I’ve gotten used to hearing a constant chant of “fagnesium” whenever I speak. Most annoyingly, though, recently in geometry, after I identified a shape as a “trapezoid,” he coughed “fagezoid” and received a round of sustained chuckles. I was outraged . . . not merely by the insult but at what passes for homophobic rhyming mockery. At least “magnesium” and “fagnesium” have the same vowel and final consonant in the first syllable, but “trapezoid” and “fagezoid” do not rhyme! How dare such shoddy workmanship bring down the house?

Anyhoo, I was raucously guffawing at David Chasen when, at the height of my openmouthed laughter, Doug Gool pointed his phone at me and snapped a shot.

He flashed it around. “Look at the piece of spinach in Goldblatt’s teeth!”

I quickly clamped my mouth closed, but it was too late. The proof was in his iPhone. He sent it to Jeff Horner as the bell rang, and Jeff had just enough time before everyone left to forward it to his entire contact list, which included the whole class. It was the only instance when I haven’t seen everyone rush out of the room. Instead, they suddenly had all the time in the world to stand around and look at their phones. The mild laughter about David Chasen’s pronunciation of cliche was nothing compared to the belly laughs my spinach-filled teeth got. That is what my friend Spencer calls instant karma.

“I’ve told you before, Justin. Karma means that whatever you do, the same is done back to you.” Spencer explained it to me (for the tenth time this year) in gym class later that day. He was wearing black shorts with a black Gap V-neck that, combined with his orange hair, made him look like a Halloween centerpiece. I know orange hair sounds crazy, but it’s eye-catching, fall-foliage orange, not Ronald McDonald orange.

Looks-wise, we’re totally different; he resembles a Midwestern farmer while I could easily be mistaken for someone applying to rabbinical school. On top of that, he’s around six inches taller than me but weighs twenty-five pounds less. I don’t know which I’d rather be: tall and crazily skinny like him or short and chubby in all the wrong places like yours truly. Also, I’m jealous of Spencer because when he gets older and fills out, he’s going to be great-looking, with his cute face and good hair. Since I’ve known him, I’ve seen his hair automatically style itself into something hip and trendy whether he’s sweaty from gym class or soaked from a sudden rain shower or refusing to put in any product in protest of the destruction of the Amazon.

I, however, spent all of seventh through ninth grades trying to straighten my hair every morning, but by third period, it would always go back to its natural curl. And I don’t mean the fun, bouncy curls you want to run your fingers through. I mean tight, Brillo-pad curls like . . . well, like a Brillo pad.

Spencer and I were essentially by ourselves outdoors. We were supposed to be running track, but we weren’t. We were jalking, which is a word we invented that means moving much slower than jogging but one iota faster than walking. That’s why most of the word is from walking, but the j is thrown in because there’s a little essence of jogging. Once in a while, Mr. Hasley would blow his whistle at us and we’d go from a jalk to a jog.

Spencer continued explaining. “You were laughing at David Chasen, so your karma was to then have people laugh at you.”

I didn’t want to hear the rest of the explanation, so I feigned being out of breath and waved for him to keep moving. He stopped. He considerately waited until I stopped panting to finish his lesson in why I deserved what I got.

“Sometimes it takes a while . . . ,” he continued, and then took a moment to think of an example. “Like when DeeDee Gosling returned that wallet she found and months later was crowned homecoming queen even though everybody thought Tricia Hansberry was going to get it.”

He was right. That crowning had to be DeeDee’s good karma. It certainly wasn’t based on her twice-monthly-washed hair.

“Sometimes, however, it’s immediate, or what’s called instant karma.” He stopped and pulled out his phone to show me what he meant. “Like this.”

I stared at the shot of my gaping mouth that featured what looked like a whole head of spinach in my two front teeth. I spoke with detachment. “I’m glad to see your phone has such good pixelation. I can see not only the spinach but also remnants of the processed cheese used in the cafeteria’s vegetarian lasagna.”

He peered at the photo. “I don’t think that’s because my phone is so great. I think that would be pretty obvious even with half the pixelation.”

Mr. Hasley blew his whistle three times to signal the end of class, giving me a break from learning more details about why my school-wide humiliation was my own fault. The other boys hit the showers, but since Spencer and I broke nary a drop of sweat, we just went to the locker room and put our school clothes back on.

I looked at myself in the mirror. Hmm . . . maybe if I cut my hair short, my natural perm wouldn’t be so big. And if I ixnayed my enormous post-homework bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, I could lose some of my gut. As the saying goes, “My diet starts tomorrow.”

But I didn’t mean that as a homily that people mysteriously found humorous enough to reproduce on refrigerator magnets. I was serious! I’m sick of looking the way I do. Spencer appeared in the mirror behind me. His hair was a mess . . . and it looked great. While he fixed it for no reason, I waved and left the locker room quickly so none of the boys could accuse me of lingering and looking at them (which I wanted to do). Spencer joined me in the hall and told me he wanted to get a PowerBar from the vending machine before his next class. I watched him sprint toward the cafetorium. Ironically, his running after gym class was thirty times faster than his “running” during gym class.

I had the next period free and decided to go to the library. The reading area has super-plush chairs, and I wanted to snuggle down and lose myself in A Tale of Two Cities. I hoped the plight of Charles Darnay would help me forget my latest school-wide humiliation. I got there right after the bell rang, and luckily my favorite chair was available. I opened my Charles Dickens but couldn’t concentrate. I kept thinking about the latest picture of me being texted to everyone. Was it passing through the air particles surrounding me? Why did this kind of thing keep happening to me? I closed my eyes and tried to focus on what exactly was keeping me on the bottom of the social ladder.

On the surface, this would be a perfect problem to work out with Spencer because he’s so smart, but I always have to remind myself that his advice starts out helpful and then gets annoying. Especially about social issues. Yes, last year he helped me accept being gay, but two minutes later he couldn’t understand why I wanted to be popular. Infuriating.

And yet, maybe there was something helpful he said that day that I’ve forgotten.

Hmm . . . I decided to remember back to that afternoon in the park to see if there were any nuggets of wisdom I’d let slide by me.

I had spent all of freshman year in denial of the growing feelings I was having toward boys. I absolutely didn’t want to grow up to be gay. I had been called a fag ever since fifth grade, and it had always made me feel awful about myself before I even knew what it meant. Realizing that I probably was what the name meant was too much for me. By the spring, I had successfully suppressed thinking about it.

Until that afternoon in late June.

Meet the Author

SETH RUDETSKY is the Broadway host, seven days a week, on SiriusXM Satellite Radio. As a pianist, Seth has played for more than a dozen Broadway shows including Ragtime, Les Miz, and Phantom. He was the Artistic Producer/Music Director for the first five annual Actors Fund Fall Concerts including Dreamgirls with Audra MacDonald and Hair with Jennifer Hudson. In 2007, he made his Broadway acting debut in The Ritz and has also appeared on TV in Law & Order: Criminal Intent. As an author, he penned the books The Q Guide to Broadway and Broadway Nights. He currently writes a weekly column on PlayBill.com.

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My Awesome , Awful Popularity Plan 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
MissyDePoint More than 1 year ago
I had a chance to read a review copy of this fresh and funny debut by Seth Rudetsky. A boy-boy-girl love triangle with a great supporting cast of characters. This book will have you laughing and rooting for its hero, Justin. 5 Stars!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful book! And i am 43! Reminds me of high school and my crush on our quarterback!!!!
KimballSK More than 1 year ago
My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan is a fun, frothy, frolic that reminded me of some of my favorite “chick-lit” books. Justin finds himself in embarrassing/funny/awkward situations ala Becky Bloomwood and Bridget Jones. You can see that our hero is making bad decisions that will only lead to trouble, but it’s so much fun to see how he’s going to get out of it. I’ve been a fan of Rudetsky (better known for his Broadway resume) for years. He hosts a couple of my favorite Broadway talk shows on Sirius/XM’s Broadway Channel, writes regular features for Playbill and has been in several Broadway and Off-Broadway productions himself. With that in mind, I knew that Broadway musicals were going to feature in his debut novel and, as a fan, I relished the references, although they might not be for everyone. This is the first YA romance I’ve read that features a homosexual hero. I loved that it wasn’t preachy or deep. It just was. Justin is funny, sassy and awkward all at the same time and his BFF, Spencer, is a perfect foil to all of his half-baked plans. In the end My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan wasn’t so much about the differences between people with different sexual preferences, it was a testament to how similar their situations actually are. First crushes and first love are strange territory for any teenager and Rudetsky has shown just how funny it can be too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is justin gay or what cause while i was reading the description i got really cofused :/
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hello fellow theatre geeks! Great read. Great author. I can't even explain how much i love seth and this book. BRAVA SETH. BRAVA! -YOUR BIGGEST FAN, RACHEL
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So clever, so fun, so witty, so fantastic. Seth Rudetsky delivers an absolutely WONDERFUL piece of work here. It had me laughing out loud so many times. It's just one of those awesome, feel-good books. I definitely recommend this to anyone who wants a fun book to read. :)
Heidi_G More than 1 year ago
2.5 stars--not bad but not good enough for 3 stars. What could've been a decent novel dealign with LGTBQ issues came across as a silly romp through high school, with Jewish, socially uncool Justin hoping for a date or at least a kiss from superpopular football star Chuck. The fact that Chuck is dating Becky is just one small obstacle to overcome. There is bullying, drama, and much silliness. I did not appreciate the reference to Nazis.