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!