It’s been called a Diary of a Wimpy Kid for girls, and to some extent that’s true. The Popularity Papers, by Amy Ignatow, has the humor, diary format, drawings, and recognizable school, family and social situations that make the “Wimpy Kid” franchise so popular. But The Popularity Papers offers tween readers more that just a silly take on adolescent life.
The book is in the form of a shared diary. Sixth graders Lydia and Julie record their observations of popular junior high school girls, in the hopes that they themselves will be popular some day. The book is laugh-out-loud funny at times, but even more appealing are Lydia and Julie’s personalities, revealed through their written comments, drawings, and even their penmanship.
Their “research” into the mysterious ways of popular girls eventually draws Lydia and Julie into new experiences that expand their circle of friends and begin to pull them apart. The friendship problems faced by the girls are sure to ring true to readers in grades 4 through junior high. The book is also filled with other characters that are multi-dimensional and believable, rather than the typical school-story stereotypes (mean girl, nerdy boy, etc.). Lydia’s Goth older sister Melody, for example, turns out to be more than just a sullen teen. Also refreshing is the book’s matter-of-fact treatment of Julie’s nontraditional family. She has two dads, but that’s not a problem or even the focus of the story.
There’s a lesson in this book—that’s there’s more to a person than first meets the eye—but it’s conveyed in a way that is light-hearted, not heavy-handed. The many Diary of a Wimpy Kid books may be funny, but I’ll take The Popularity Papers for its combination of humor and heart.