The Fabulousness That Is Deb Elise’s POPULAZZI! (Giveaway!)

Populazzi Elise AllenGuess what? It’s time to celebrate Deb Elise Allen’s Populazzi!

I met Deb Elise when I was in LA, but we only got to talk for about three minutes, and we were so excited we forgot to take a picture, but I loved her immediately, and reading this book only cemented that.

Let me catch you up with a back-of-the-book summary first:


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.


Like most of us, I was awkward and self-conscious and confused throughout my teenage years. I went to a small, private, all-girls’ high school, so the social strata were laid out differently, but there was still a social ladder of sorts, and while I wasn’t tempted to climb it, I did always wonder about it.

How do people fall into groups? Who are these mysterious golden “Supreme Populazzi”, and how do they get there? I remember in junior high school, the people at the top of the social strata were not nice, and nobody really liked them, but somehow they remained “the popular crowd”, even though that totally defies the meaning of popular. Whatever. Nobody is interested in semantics in the 7th grade.

Watching Cara climb the Ladder in the book is both sad and fascinating. I wanted to cheer for her even though, at thirty-ahem years old, it was absolutely clear that the Ladder was going in completely the wrong direction. But along the way, Elise gives you lots of things to think about in terms of the way we find people we identify with, and how we learn to be happy with who we are (which is a lesson even we thirty-ahems could use some reminding of).

Special bonus that the main character is a smart, literate girl who has inside jokes about Shakespeare with her best friend (if you’ve read The Weird Sisters, you know I dig me some Shakespeare on occasion).

Congratulations to Elise on a smart, funny, clever book that had me thinking long after I closed the cover.

What social group were you in as a teenager? Did you ever want or try to be part of a different one?

Congratulations to commenter #10, Kelley, who won a copy of Populazzi! Thank you, everyone, for supporting Elise’s debut!

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44 thoughts on “The Fabulousness That Is Deb Elise’s POPULAZZI! (Giveaway!)

  1. I attended a small prep school. There were fewer groups – but just as stratified. And the short boys always seemed to end up in a trash can upside down. Congrats, Elise on debut week!

    • Since our schools were similar, I’m surprised yours was so stratified. Or maybe I was just clueless and didn’t notice? Or maybe it’s because it was co-ed. No short boys to stuff in trash cans!

  2. Ugh, our school had way too many groups. And for the most part, once you were in one, you didn’t dare try to move into a new one. I was on the edge of the “plastics” in junior high, but quickly tired of the expectation that we all cut our hair a certain way, wear certain clothes, etc. I wasn’t a goody two shoes but did not curse. At the point I was told I could no longer hang out with them unless I started cursing, I moved on. I pretty much went to a band geek crowd at that point and never looked back.

    • I love stories about people who actively chose a “lower” group on the ladder. Congratulations for having your head on straight at an early age!

  3. I didn’t belong to a group in high school. I was a nerd — meaning I wasn’t cool enough to hang out with the geeks. (I’ve since achieved full geekdom. Hooray for me.)

  4. I’ve been making my way through each of the Deb’s books. I’m equally excited to read this one!

    I grew up in a large family so we didn’t have a lot. That was definitely exacerbated by my parents’ divorce. Despite being poor, I was still able to participate in cheerleading thanks to my grandfather who funded it. While I was in the cheerleader/popular crowd I was still a straight and narrow book worm church girl. I guess that made my social group one step below the cool group that drank, had fancy clothes, and dates with all the super sporty cute guys. Looking back, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

    • I, too, am grateful that I was exactly where I was on that ladder! I’m not sure how my life now would have benefited from drinking and fancy clothes. Here’s to good perspective!

  5. I’m pretty sure I’d fall in to Elise’s Cubby Crew category in High School- lord knows I’m like Cara and would like to be in the Populazzi but definitely never gonna get there, Number one reason because I don’t have Elise to write me Cara’s willpower ;)I, on the other hand, am friends with some of the Populazzi at our school and very close with our Supreme Populazzi as a friend but too nerdy to be in there category–

    • Would that I had Elise to write me Cara’s willpower and her snappy dialogue! I am never that quick-witted.

      I think most of these comments – and I’d agree – are saying we’re glad to have been just where we were. In your case, you get some perspective being friends across groups, but don’t have to deal with the junk all those groups require!

  6. I hung out with a rough crowd in high school! In fact after I was out of high school I was talking to a girl I went to high school with but wasn’t in my crowd about doing drugs and I said I had never done any drugs ever and she was shocked and had assumed because of the girls I hung out with that I had. I’m not sure if she ever believed me but at 30ahem years I don’t really care at this point but it proves you are judged by the people you surround yourself with. I’m really looking forward to reading this book!

    • It is so true – especially at that age. At this point I think I know that people can be fluid and have all kinds of friends for all kinds of reasons, but then people definitely did judge.

      Populazzi was great fun – I hope you enjoy it!

  7. I think I would like to share my sister’s story, although I was there. I grew up in San Diego CALF. I went to a city school with gangs and drive-by’s, in fact we had the very first undercover cop busting drug dealers there – which spawned 21 Jumpstreet!

    My younger sister was determined NOT to go to that school, so was bussed to the beach where all the kids wore braces, designer clothes, drove cars to school ca city bus.

    One night Dad was taking us all out but had to stop at K-Mart (there was no Walmart yet). In the car, my sister pitched an absolute fit, she was duped into going to K-Mart, what is someone saw her? She began to cry.

    We all laughed and found it humorous, she bawled all the way there and all the way home. It was in East San Diego. She now lives in Ireland, she has 4 kids.

    • Wow – escaping one kind of pressure only to go into another. Isn’t it funny how things like K-Mart mattered so VERY much at the time?

      Glad she survived the humiliation!

  8. I was a total theater geek. You know, the ones who got teased for being “thespians.” Not the absolute dorkiest crew in school, but nowhere near as cool as the jocks, dance team, and cheerleaders.

    • Me too! But as I mentioned, that meant different things at my school. I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve been grateful for my theater experience!

  9. I was a jock. I played a sport every season. But then I was also in theater and choir so basically I had my core group of friends (seven of us. Three guys, four girls. All of us athletes.) and then I jumped around all the groups. I’m not sure if our class was just especially nice, or if I was just oblivious, but I seriously didn’t have a problem with anyone and I didn’t get the feeling anyone had a problem with me.

    This book sounds fascinating as I would love to read about what it seems like so many high schoolers go though.

  10. At graduation, our high school principal stated that my class was one of the closest knit he’d ever seen, without so many cliques.
    I don’t remember it quite that way, but I do remember being part of several groups because i liked everyone and I liked making my presence known.

    • When I was teaching, I definitely noticed that certain years of students had different personalities – some groups were very clique-y, some were really one big happy family, others were somewhere in between.

      I do think being part of a number of groups is a good thing. Makes us well-balanced!

  11. I was never, NEVER, one of the popular kids–and never even dated in high school (boy, do you think my parents knew how lucky they were??!!) but I was very involved in theater and it was the perfect balm to any high-school-inflicted wounds. I think it also helped that, like in Gayle’s experience, our class was small and not very clique-y.

    • I am forever grateful for my experience in theater, for balm reasons and more. Reading Populazzi definitely made me glad I didn’t have to deal with most of the things they do in the book!

  12. I wasn’t unpopular, but I wasn’t popular … I sort of floated in the middle, editing the school paper, etc. I liked to *pretend* that I didn’t want to be popular … but I totally did.

  13. From freshman year I knew high school was only a means to climbing the ladder to college and being popular was based on fickle acquaintances. I chose a few nice friends to share with, then simply accepted everyone else….a good lesson for the real world.

  14. I was pretty much an outcast – my personality led me to have a ‘best friend’, and being an only child (and living in the middle of nowhere) I was most comfortable on my own, so I didn’t crave companionship. I was a ‘brainiac’ when it wasn’t cool for girls to be smart, and I wasn’t needy enough to play dumb to get boys or friends.

    My favorite story: My best friend in jr/high school asked me one day, our second conversation, if she could come over & spend the night that weekend. I said I’d have to ask my mom; it was OK with mom & she came over. We became best friends & hung out the rest of school. She told me years later that she invited herself over on a dare, because other girls said I was no fun and I’d never do anything with her.

    • And see what she would have missed? I don’t know if it’s cool for girls to be smart now, but it is certainly cooler than it was. And we’re the ones who made it that way.

  15. I really don’t know what group I was in. I wasn’t quite smart enough to be a true nerd, but I was most certainly not one of the cool kids. I guess I was one of those people who seems to be on the outside of a lot of different groups.

    • It seems like a lot of people felt like they were in the middle, or in a number of different groups. I think that’s a good thing – that’s what life is like, really.

  16. I, too, loved this book’s exploration of the social groups and what that all means when you’re an impressionable teen. I went to a very clique-y school and struggled a lot in junior high, but by the time I hit high school, I learned that not caring about any of that stuff was the key to being seen as a whole lot cooler than you really are.

    Loved this book!

    Tawna

  17. i liked to read…and study…in school…so i guess my group consisted of others who were like me.
    thanks for the chance to read this wonderful novel 🙂

  18. I was pretty much friends with everyone, except for mean girls. They were mean to me, and I was mean to them; we essentially cancelled one another out!

    • Ha! Love it. I guess some people just deserve mean-ness right back at them.

      Thanks for visiting!

  19. I LOVE ALL THESE POSTS!!!! Almost wish I read them all before starting the book. 😉

    They make me feel very happy with the world of Populazzi, because whether or not our schools were as specifically stratified as my fictional Chrysella High, it seems like we all had the sense of a distinct popularity continuum, knew we were not at the top, and wondered what it might be like to get there (even if in retrospect we’re very happy with where we were back then).

    Thanks for all the posts, and I look forward to everyone’s thoughts when they read the book!

    • I felt the same way after hearing people’s sibling stories after they read TWS!

      You totally nailed it. Congrats, lovely!

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