How to Be Popular
Meg Cabot

Steph Landry is an average high school girl. She is not popular, but she it not unpopular either. She has good friends and she is good in school.

When she was little, she was friends with a girl named Lauren. Lauren’s family was wealthy and Lauren was very popular. One day, Steph was riding to school with Lauren and she spilled a huge red drink on Lauren’s designer skirt. She never heard the end of it.

This year, her junior year, Steph is determined to rise above her major mistake and become popular. While cleaning out her future stepgrandmother’s attic, she comes across a book entitled, How to Be Popular. She asks her stepgrandmother if she can have the box that happens to contain the book, and so she takes the book home and reads it and comes up with a plan to become popular.

The first day of school there is an assembly. The senior class president, Mark – with whom Steph is in love and who is the most popular boy in school and possibly in town, and who is also dating Lauren – makes a speech about how they are going to make money for the senior trip by having a car wash. A boy stands up and suggests that they do something else. Steph seizes the opportunity and makes the suggestion that they have a talent auction. People would auction off their talents and it would be open to the entire town. Mark thinks it is a great idea, and Steph is in.

Steph puts all of her energy and focus into organizing the talent auction. Meanwhile, her best friends Jason and Becca are slowly slipping away. Steph is convinced that she is in love with Mark and that she has his full attention. Now she just needs him to realize that Lauren is actually not a nice person and that Steph is much better dating material.

The talent auction finally comes about and it is a huge success. Steph, whose family owns a bookstore in town, buys Mark to be a spokesperson for the bookstore. Everything is going according to plan.

One day at school, Lauren asks Steph if it would be all right if they had a party at the new observatory that Steph’s grandfather built and is donating to the town. Steph hesitates, but, knowing that her popularity is at stake, she gives her permissions. She tells Lauren that she will be there to open the door to the observatory.

That night, Mark goes to the bookstore so Steph can take pictures of him, as he is the new spokesperson for the bookstore. Steph subtly tells him that she is afraid of what will happen to her grandfather’s observatory when all of the kids show up for the party. Mark kisses her and assures her that he will not let anything happen. Steph cannot believe that she was just kissed by Mark, and she immediately knows that everything will be all right.

However, as the kiss wears off, Steph realizes that Mark just kissed her so she would let them have the party. She realizes that he is not a very nice guy and that he is actually very manipulative. She goes to the observatory but refuses to let all of the party kids inside.

Her friend, Jason, is at the observatory, making sure that she makes the right decision. As Steph has realized what a jerk Mark is, she also realizes that she is in love with Jason. That night Jason tells her that he is also in love with her.

Steph is no longer popular, but she does not care. She learned her lesson and she learned that she just needs to be nice to people. At the end, she makes a couple of friends with popular girls, to whom Lauren was very mean. Lauren walks away devastated, with Mark at her side. Steph asks them if the two of them want to join the rest of them for coffee. They accept.

This book teaches a great lesson about what it means to be truly popular. Steph compromises on some things, but in the end, she makes the right choice and realizes that she only needs to be kind to people. How people react is up to them. Steph realizes that she need not compromise on anything; she only needs to show kindness and compassion in order to be popular. - JH