Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Review: My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan by Seth Rudetsky

Publisher: Random House BYR
Publication Date:  January 24th, 2012

Justin has two goals for sophomore year: to date Chuck, the hottest boy in school, and to become the king of Cool U, the table in the cafeteria where the "in" crowd sits.

Unfortunately, he has the wrong look (short, plump, Brillo-pad curls), he has the wrong interests (Broadway, chorus violin), and he has the wrong friends (Spencer, into Eastern religions, and Mary Ann,  who doesn't shave her armpits). And Chuck? Well, he's not gay; he's dating Becky, a girl in chorus with whom Justin is friendly.

But Justin is determined.

In detention one day (because he saw Chuck get it first), Justin comes up with a perfect plan: to allow Becky to continue dating Chuck, whom Becky's dad hates. They will pretend that Becky is dating Justin, whom Becky's dad loves. And when Becky and Justin go out on a fake date, Chuck will meet up with them for a real date with Becky. Chuck's bound to find Justin irresistible, right? What could go wrong?

Seth Rudetsky's first novel for young adults is endearingly human, and laugh-out-loud funny, and any kid who ever aspired to Cool U will find Justin a welcome ally in the fight for popularity.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

I'm always on the lookout for new books with solid LGBT characters in them because I don't think that there are enough of them out there.  In the past 15 years, the number of openly gay teens has skyrocketed, and I think that while it's getting better, they are not well enough represented in YA lit.  Yes, you have your token gay friends of straight main characters in a lot of books, but books with gay teens as the main characters are few an far between.  That said, I was excited when I got an advance copy of this book...

When I started this book, I immediately thought of the much-loved 80's classic movie, starring McDreamy himself, Can't Buy Me Love.  This movie was a favorite of mine back then, so I was really getting into the story.  Although Justin doesn't pay Becky to go out with him, like in the movie, he is doing it for popularity (and to gain favor with her secret boyfriend, Chuck); he's sick of being at the absolute bottom of the social hierarchy-and that's without coming out to his peers... At first I thought Justin was a shallow, self-absorbed jerk, but at the end, he grew enough as a person that I could like him.  My favorite characters were Becky and Spencer.  Both were kind and patient; unfortunately that left them open to be walked all over by those they loved.  The book was predictable, and Justin's gayness was a bit cliche (loves Broadway, lives to be on stage, fantasizes constantly about the hot, straight jock), but overall the story was very cute and believable, and more importantly, it had a positive message: Accept yourself for who you are, and those worth your time will accept you as well.
This book isn't going to be for everyone.  It's definitely funny a lot of the time, but it's not one of those books that is going to have mass appeal.  It would be a great choice for a gay MS or HS student who is coming to terms with being so, especially since it's quite clean as far as language and sexual content are concerned.  I enjoyed this book, but it wasn't really one I would go out of my way to tell people about.

My Rating: ★ ★ ★  

Grade Level Recommendation:  This is probably the cleanest LGBT book I've ever read as far as sexual content and language are concerned.  I think this book would be fine for grades 5 and up (ages 10+).

1 comment:

  1. Hey, thanks for this review! I love the idea of a good, clean LGBT book. I'm making my library's next book order (to be ordered over the summer) and I'll be adding this one to it.


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