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Popular, a Memoir: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek
by Maya Van Wagenen
Dutton, 2014

JMID  Van Wagenen

Popular, a Memoir was such a fun book to read.  It all starts with a vintage book called “Betty Cornell’s Teen-Age Popularity Guide”.  Maya’s father buys a copy of the book at a yard sale, and when Maya finds it, she’s inspired to follow the book’s outdated advice and see what happens.  It’s her 8th grade year and Maya is set on becoming popular.  She’s a bit of an outsider at school, and she wants to know if the book will still help someone like her gain popularity.  She keeps a diary of her social experiment.   Can a book from 1951 help Maya reach her goal?

 I breezed through this book wanting to find out.  At first, Maya only gets odd looks for her long skirts and old fashioned shoes, but then things start to turn around a little. She starts to be brave and confident. The last chapter in “Betty Cornell’s Teen-Age Popularity Guide” advises her to make friends with everyone.  Maya realizes that being popular is really about including all the social circles, not just one.  Maya’s writing is funny, relatable, and has some good (if old) beauty tips. My favorite tips were rag curlers and applying ice cubes to your pores.  Maya redefines the word popular for herself and her friends.  I recommend this book for any teens that are curious about the idea of popularity, how important it is, or if it even is important.  You’ll be rooting for Maya the entire time.

Review By: Emily Schindeldecker

 

Jing: King of Bandits
by Yuichi Kumakura
Tokyopop, 2004
YCM Kumakura

Right off the bat, this manga proves that it may not be happy-go-lucky as we start at a funeral and with this confusing scene, it also proves that it won’t be simple. Jing, the hero of this story, has placed a mysterious trap to capture the funeral-goers valuables.  But when the trap goes off, a weird demon-like being shows up for a split second and all the valuables are gone.  All that’s left is a note saying, “Congratulations on your acceptance to heaven” signed “The King of Thieves.” Still interested? If not, you may not like what follows.

The main character, Jing, is what most people would call a cool-blooded badass, someone who is always on top of everything. Yes, this is a stereotype, but I happen to appreciate that stereotype. As for our second in command, he’s also an overused character; he’s your typical perverted character who lusts after everything that bounces. Oh, and he’s a bird. Don’t question it. I personally believe their personalities fit the world: Jing represents the dark and awesome side of it all, what with constant death and stuff like triple-barreled shotguns. Whereas the bird represents the more hilariously stupid aspects of the world, like the mutants, or stuff like triple-barreled shotguns.

And while I must admit that I like that an entire city got stolen, the rest was unmemorable. Whether it is because of poor writing or simply the manga style, Jing: King of Bandits felt way too confusing.  If you really want to get into manga, you may want to skip this one for now, but if you’ve been reading the genre for years and are used to deciphering the mess—and if you happen to be entertained by perverted birds—you may find a new favorite in this.

Reviewed by Travis Keegan

 

Mason, 
by Thomas Pendleton
HarperTeen, 2008
Y  PENDLETON

Gene and Mason Avrett do not come from a stereotypical family, with both their parents gone and living with their aunt. Gene and Mason may be kin, but could not be any more different.  Mason is kind hearted, sympathetic, and a little slow in the head, but none the less has a beautiful soul and loves to draw. Gene on the other hand is a vicious sociopath who has it out for his brother from the very beginning. Gene often beats Mason, just for the kick of it, but he then starts dabbling in other sick pastimes worse than beatings. Rene Denton was Mason’s only childhood friend but they have long since grown apart. But Mason has a disturbing power, one that he himself does not even understand. Rene one day gets brutally beaten, and the attackers now face Mason’s wrath. Can Mason keep her safe? Can Mason even save himself from his horrible brother Gene? This is a fast paced horror novel that paints horrendous images in your head, just like how Mason can make his enemies see the images he projects. If you like suspense, eeriness and a touch of gore that grabs you and won’t let go in your reading, this is the book for you. After I read it once, I had to read it again because I wanted to relive Mason’s struggle. This story will haunt you long after the last page has been turned.

Reviewed by Justine Philippi