I was soooo excited to read fellow Deb Ball sister Elise Allen’s debut novel, Populazzi (which I, oddly, always want to spell with two “p’s”—which makes zero grammatical sense!) for so many reasons: a.) in the lost years between junior high and high school, I was a little shy, a little unsure of myself, and, like Elise’s main character, Cara, totally the type of girl whose diaries are uneventful (though I hid them anyway, and I bet my parents did snoop, but I forgive them!), b.) I have full lips, just like the girl on the cover (I love them now, but I felt self-conscious about them growing up), and, b.) I have fond memories of YA books as a teen, most notably The Babysitters Club series—so I was really excited to rediscover the genre as an adult. And, friends, long story short: This book met all of my expectations and then some. It was such a treat.
Here I was, a 33-year-old mother of three, totally identifying with Cara. For 390 pages, I lived vicariously through her. (And, for the record, while I didn’t have an “accident” like hers in Kindergarten, I did have excema on the backs of my legs and was so afraid to stand in the front of the line for fear that someone would make fun of the rashy skin behind my knees. Funny how we still carry these feelings/worries with us through life. I can still feel that anxiety years later when I think back to that year.
I could ramble on and on about all the ways I connected with this book, but here’s the thing: I will always remember this story because it took me back to a time when I grappled with these very same questions and choices. I distinctly remember being a scrawny, sort of shy, eighth grader, nodding obediently as a more “popular” girl gave my friend and me a “lesson” on popularity in the cafeteria one day (just like in Populazzi, there were four levels of popular kids, she said, and we’d have to act, dress, and even talk in a certain way if we were to climb the ladder. Oy!).
Somewhere along the way, I worked out what mattered most: Being me. Bravo, dear Elise, for writing about these issues of youth with such wisdom, tenderness and authenticity. xo, Sarah
P.S. Have you ordered your copy?