4.6 12
by Elise Allen

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Cara has never been one of those girls: confident, self-possessed, and always ready with the perfect thing to say. A girl at the very top of the popularity tower. One of the Populazzi.

Now, junior year could change everything. Cara’s moving to a new school, and her best friend urges her to seize the moment—with the help of the Ladder.

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Cara has never been one of those girls: confident, self-possessed, and always ready with the perfect thing to say. A girl at the very top of the popularity tower. One of the Populazzi.

Now, junior year could change everything. Cara’s moving to a new school, and her best friend urges her to seize the moment—with the help of the Ladder. Its rungs are relationships, and if Cara transforms into the perfect girlfriend for guys ever-higher on the tower, she’ll reach the ultimate goal: Supreme Populazzi.

The Ladder seems like a lighthearted social experiment, a straight climb up, but it quickly becomes gnarled and twisted. And when everything goes wrong, only the most audacious act Cara can think of has a chance of setting things even a little bit right.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Even at age 16, Cara Leonard can't live down her "pants-wetter" reputation, one she earned in kindergarten. When her family moves to a new town at the onset of her junior year, she finally has an opportunity to "rewrite" her life story if she follows the scheme invented by her best friend (and fellow former pants-wetter) Claudia. The idea is to climb up to the top of the "Popularity Tower" at her new school by dating boys a rung higher. Methodically capturing and then breaking the hearts of unsuspecting victims, Cara nearly reaches her goal of becoming the "Supreme Populazzi." In her first solo novel, Allen (coauthor of Elixir with Hilary Duff) offers a smart mix of hilarity and tragedy in this Macbeth–meets–Mean Girls tale, though readers may lose sympathy for narrowly focused Cara, who seems to lose all reason and compassion as her greed for power takes over. Hearts are more likely to go out to a less prominent but nobler figure, "socially out of it" Robert Schwarner, the only one able to save Cara from herself. Ages 14–up. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Annie Laura Smith
High school is often a maze that adolescents must learn how to navigate. It is a journey fraught with many missteps and there is a learning curve along the way. As a junior in Chrysella High School, Cara Leonard must determine if she can become a Populazzi—a confident, self-possessed girl. Will her enrollment in a new school in the Philadelphia area give her the opportunity to achieve this goal, and reach the top of the popularity tower? In this quest to become the Supreme Populazzi, she over compensates, and seems to lose all reason in breaking hearts of the boys she is dating. Her initial efforts in a lighthearted social experiment to become more popular quickly show the dark side of high school popularity. Her friend, Robert Schwarner, although socially inept himself, may be the only person who can save her from herself. Young readers will no doubt wonder as they read this story what they would do if they had the opportunity to reinvent themselves. The author captures the teen voice well, and provides a cautionary tale with lessons to be learned from Cara's quest. Wind Dancer Films has optioned the feature rights to this debut novel. Reviewer: Annie Laura Smith
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Starting a new school for her junior year, suburban Philadelphia teenager Cara embarks on a project to date her way "up the Ladder" with the ultimate goal of becoming one of the "populazzi." This predictable and satisfying chick-lit novel is easy to read and easier to describe: just imagine that Jeanette Rallison and E. Lockhart cowrote Mark Waters's 2004 film Mean Girls after they'd both been reading Laura Ruby's Good Girls (HarperCollins, 2006). The elements: a funny and smart virginal narrator; a perfect boy (here he's a cute, clever Indian-Filipino-American actor); a large suburban high school culture; witty, unintended double-entendre tongue-trips ("you'll be begging to dip your fries in my shake"); contextualized references to current pop culture and clothing; relatively supportive parents; some teen issues (drug/alcohol use, sex, bulimia) modeled primarily by supporting characters; several token gay characters; and, of course, the ultimate realization to be true to oneself. Several elements are rather unrealistic (e.g., the cyberbullying that doesn't phase our plucky heroine, a teacher who makes penis jokes in class sans consequences, some glaringly fast changes in Cara's behavior to fit the narrative). It's almost twice as long as most books of its genre, but this brilliantly titled novel delivers exactly the right escapist fluff while remaining clean and innocent enough to appear on both junior high and high school shelves... and it should.—Rhona Campbell, formerly at Washington, DC Public Library
Kirkus Reviews

One teen invents a system to achieve popularity.

At first, 16-year-old Cara is not thrilled with her family's decision to relocate midway through high school, especially since it means leaving her best and pretty much exclusive friend, Claudia, behind. However, when Claudia points out that this is Cara's chance to totally reinvent herself, she begins to warm to the idea. Determined to reach the top of the high-school food chain and shake off her less-than-exciting lifelong reputation, Cara invents The Ladder with Claudia. They believe this is Cara's chance to claim her rightful place among her new school's popular crowd—or, as the friends have dubbed them, the Populazzi. The Ladder posits that every rung is a boyfriend who will help Cara date her way to popularity. However, Cara's ascent is not without peril, as she quickly discovers that climbing The Ladder means drastically changing her personality, stepping on some toes, breaking hearts and risking everything, including her dream of attending Northwestern. Although it is somewhat predictable, the story unflinchingly depicts the dark and dangerous side of high-school popularity, making it a captivating read. However, this attention to details makes it all the more noticeable when certain story elements are unexpectedly dropped or situations seem unrealistically twisted to conveniently fit The Ladder.

Teens willing to forgive the flaws will find this a fascinating exploration.(Fiction. 14 & up)

From the Publisher

"Fresh, funny, and sometimes wrenching, Populazzi nails what it's like to try to find yourself while navigating the crazy world of high school. I loved it." —Hilary Duff

"Populazzi is a fresh, fun peek behind the popularity curtain. Elise Allen is a welcome new voice in YA fiction." —Eileen Cook, Author of The Education of Hailey Kendrick

"Populazzi is a smart, fun, and energetic ride through the twisting hallways of high school popularity." —Deb Caletti, author of The Secret Life of Prince Charming

"Hilarious, physiologically chewy, downright Machiavellian, and heartfelt in all the most satisfying ways." —Matthew Quick, author of Sorta Like a Rock Star

"In her first solo novel, Allen (coauthor of Elixir with Hilary Duff) offers a smart mix of hilarity and tragedy in this Macbeth—meets—Mean Girls tale."—Publishers Weekly

"The story unflinchingly depicts the dark and dangerous side of high-school popularity, making it a captivating read."—Kirkus Reviews

"Satisfying chick-lit...This brilliantly titled novel delivers exactly the right escapist fluff while remaining clean and innocent enough to appear on both junior high and high school shelves...and it should." —School Library Journal

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Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range:
14 Years

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Populazzi 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
epicrat More than 1 year ago
I don't know what it is, but I seriously love to see the many ways high school cliques can be described - and let me tell you, some of the nicknames are really clever! Populazzi was no different, but this nice thing is that Elise Allen kept it pretty simple with 4 types: Happy Hopeless, Cubby Crew, DangerZone, and Populazzi (with a Supreme Populazzi in charge). Cara is the typical new girl in a new school who can basically re-invent herself and work her way up to Populazzi glory. She's not so gung ho about it as her best friend Claudia who is left behind at the old school, but she seems to be off at a good start when she encounters a Cubby Crew boy named Archer. According to Claudia's research, Cara should date him to up her social ante and then dump him for a DangerZone, repeat the cycle until she goes in for the gold. Yet Cara seems quite content with Archer, and she's not sure if she wants to move up the ladder. The only question is: Does Archer like her back? Populazzi will take you through the social Tower of Power - and I promise that you'll have oodles of fun and laughs as Cara goes through her multiple transformations to become the "dream girl" for each boy type. Practically I realize that girls shouldn't change themselves for a boy, but as gimmick to climb the social ladder it is quite funny to see how the rest of the school would react to Cara's antics! I loved the characters that Ms. Allen brought to life - and each of them had their ups and downs, pros and cons, and I think she captured high school in all its colorful glory! As for me, I think my high school self would have fit into the Cubby Crew somewhat, but I'd like to think that I had a Happy Hopeless in me!
rockygirl1 More than 1 year ago
You know how when you are watching a horror movie, and you see the girl getting ready to open the door, and you know it's a bad idea? Everyone in the audience knows its a bad idea? And you are all screaming 'Don't do it?' But, she doesn't listen and does it anyway? This novel is sort of like that, only better, because the girl lives to tell the tale. Cara is smart, but she has zero experience with guys and it just seems to keep getting her in trouble.  You just keep seeming to cheer for her though, cause SURELY, she is going to get it right eventually! This is a great story about teenagers and the ups and downs of high school.  There is also great stuff thrown in about how social media effects us and how everything can change at the drop of a hat, or the opinion of others. I loved this story.  Elise Allen has created a great story and you just find yourself cheering for Cara though the whole thing.  I enjoyed it so much I stayed up all night reading it as soon as I got it!
autumnbluesreviews More than 1 year ago
When Cara moves into a new neighborhood and a new high school her worst fears become realities. Being the new girl in school with no friends leaves her planning every step of her daily school routine, from where to hide at lunchtime to how to look as busy as possible in between periods. But Cara does have has one true loyal friend, her best friend Claudia. However, there presents one problem, Claudia does not attend the same school as Cara. After hearing about Cara’s lonely school days Claudia comes up with a plan called the “Ladder,” which after first giving her disapproval for Cara later agrees to be part of. The Ladder is a plan to help Cara become more popular at her new school and one that at first seems like an innocent game, which seems to be working, at least for a while. Soon after Cara gets comfortable with her new group of friends. her worst nightmare become reality. Reading this story had me recalling the cliques in school and everything that came along with them. This story took me back to the past and reading it totally had me feeling like a teen again. Not sure if that was a bad thing or a good thing, but overall it was highly entertaining. I found myself at the start feeling sorry for Cara and her loneliness, but later in the story those feeling soon change when she takes her unique introverted self and turns it into an extroverted monster. Which left me wondering if Cara really does deserve what she gets. If you dig deep enough through all the drama in this story you do eventually find some lessons to be learned. Most of which have to do with being true to oneself and not trying to be someone you are not. All leading to the main lesson which teaches, you can attract real friends who really care about you and love you just the way you are, if you just be your real true self.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My friend lets me read her book evey time on the bus to school. I don't know what will happen at the end but it sure is interesting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a very good book.It is a must read!Hands down one of the best books I've ever read!!!You have to check it out!!!
DanceBree17 More than 1 year ago
Populazzi is the term that is coined by Cara and her best friend Claudia to name the top groups of students on the popularity scale. Its also the name of the entertaining new book by Elise Allen that takes you throuh the ups and downs of the high school popularity scene, and the problems and thrills that come along with it. Cara has moved with her family to a new home in a suburb close to her old school, but according to Claudia, she can now invent herself into a totally new person and climb "The Ladder" to become a Populazzi, something she could not do at her old school. But Cara isnt toally convinced that Claudia's plan could actually work, but she tries it. Along the way we find her with new guys, new relationships and by chance, she winds up on the radar of the top girl in her class...Trista. Cara falls into Trista's orbit and soon joins her inner circle of girlfriends and gains alot of popularity in a short period of time. And as they always say, the higher you fly the longer you fall and her fall from grace is hard to watch happen, but Cara is alot stronger than you think and she takes the bad and turns it all around. What I like about Cara is that she is very taken by Claudia's plan, but deep down she is not totally on board with her plan and you can see alot of times where her own conscience is making her change her mind. Also the depths that the others in Trista's circle go to discredit Cara is really terrible, but so true of what teenage girls can really do when they are pushed. This is a long book(390pages) but its really good and you feel good at the end of the story and things are so neatly wrapped up, you have very little room to wonder about anyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BooksWithBite More than 1 year ago
I love high school catty stories. There is something about them that makes me go gaga for them. So much drama, so many changes, and so many boys that it makes my head spin. So the plot of this book is all what high school is. A new girl trying her make her way up the top, only this time using boys as her ladder. Cara is a girl tired of be invisible and wants to fit in, I mean who doesn't? I loved this book. And in theory, it sounds like something you can really do. The story line had an amazing amount of gasping, OMG's! and good drama. The reader is easily sucked in by this high school ladder so fast you don't know what hit you. I like Cara's approach to the ladder. At first she is scared but gains confidence and quickly finds herself heading toward the top. As she climbs up further up the ladder, she begins to see herself and the ladder in a new way. Nothing is what she imagine and of course, begins to doubt herself. I like how Cara eyes are being open to a whole new light. She thought that being at the top is what she wanted, when in fact it wasn't. I like how the reader gets to see Cara make her mistakes and grow from them. It makes her character much more approachable and easy to find your way into her shoes. The ending of this book is so sweet. Finding love when you thought you lost it is the best present ever. I felt Cara's happiness and strength in who she is now. I like that she finally found herself and is happy. Poppulazzi is a great book about finding yourself, loving yourself, and being contempt in who you are. You don't need the ladder or fake friends to be happy. All you need is the right people beside you, the family that you love and you are set for the rest of your life. *There was some sex talk, drugs, drinking, eating disorders*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Cara is moving to a new school. At her old one, she was in a clique of two.her and her best friend, Claudia. But when Claudia learns of Cara's impending move, she presents Cara with a book she's compiled.The Ladder. The Ladder, Claudia swears, contains everything Cara will need to crack the popular crowd at her new school. Neither girl had success at their current school, but Claudia is determined that at least one of them must join the popular crowd. What better way than for Cara to reinvent herself at her new school? Cara really doesn't want to do it, but to humor Claudia, she says she will try. So on her first day at Chrysella Prep, she meets Archer. He's funny and cute and Cara has an immediate bond with him. But she's afraid he doesn't rate high enough on the Ladder. He's only a Cubby Crew, and won't help her succeed in cracking the Populazzi. But as her friendship strengthens with Archer, she forgets about the Ladder and just enjoys herself. That is until she throws herself at Archer one day and gets totally rebuffed. It's this rejection that renews her efforts to enter the Populazzi. Cara eventually reaches the Populazzi radar when her next attempt at a guy, Nate Wetherill, starts him wailing a negative song he wrote about her. Imagine a song written about you rhyming the words succubus and pus. That's exactly what Cara has to deal with, but the effect is almost instantaneous - she's noticed by the 'in' crowd. Cara can't believe The Ladder may actually have worked for her. After the disaster of Nate, a good-looking popular guy starts paying attention to Cara, and THE 'it' girl, Trista Camello, is seeking her out. As with all Cinderella-type stories, you know there are going to be some twists and turns and bumps in the road for Cara. And of course the popular people are never all warm and fuzzy. You'll just have to pick up POPULAZZI for yourself to see what happens to Cara after she becomes one of THEM. I totally devoured POPULAZZI and did not want to put it down. I loved all of the interactions between Archer and Cara. He's one of those characters you can picture immediately and just want to hug. Claudia, too, was another great character. She gets to live vicariously through Cara, and is honestly happy for her as positive things begin to happen. POPULAZZI is Ms. Allen's first novel, and I hope it won't be her last. The story was well-written, entertaining, and sometimes brutally honest. But it depicts what really happens in high school - the highs and the lows.