CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 28 . . . . March 23, 2012
Margot Button, the narrator and protagonist of Mission (Un)Popular, informs the reader at the beginning of the novel that she is almost thirteen, entering middle school and is hopelessly unpopular. Margot also struggles with recent changes to her family life, including her mother’s marriage to Bryan and the arrival of her triplet stepsisters. Between triplet toddlers and Bryan, Margot’s mom never seems to have time for the activities the two of them used to share. The family also has money struggles, meaning Margot doesn’t get any new clothes for school and is forced to wear her much-hated unfashionable clothing. The novel begins with a new school year in a new school with Margot determined to gain popularity. When Margot meets Em, who stands up to bullies and does things her own way, Margot finally sees her chance to become a popular girl.
The pace of the novel is fairly fast, and it maintains interest throughout. Unfortunately, the fast pace seems to sacrifice characterization. Most of the characters lack depth, and many of Margot’s peers fit into common middle or high school stereotypes, such as “mean popular girl” or “dumb handsome jock”. This detracts from an otherwise entertaining novel. Another issue with the novel is that characters’ actions sometimes seem inexplicable, or it seems as if characters say or do things simply to move the plot along without really contributing anything to the story. An example is when Margot’s new teacher is rude to her for no apparent reason. This serves to move along the plot and get Margot in trouble, but the author gives the teacher no real motive for her actions. Margot, herself, can be an irritating character as she blindly follows Em into increasingly bully-like behaviour and doesn’t question anything about her new best friend. The only redeeming characteristic of Margot is that she eventually realizes how awful she’s been to all her old friends and rebels against Em to set things right again.
Mission (Un)Popular makes an entertaining read for teen or pre-teen girls, but it lacks depth and rehashes characters and plot lines that proliferate in teen girl fiction. Overall, this is a fairly derivative novel about the school and social lives of teenaged girls, and it adds nothing new to an already bloated genre.
Tara Stieglitz is a librarian at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton, AB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.