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“I was working so hard to get popular—and then stay that way—I didn’t actually ever have a chance to enjoy it,” Steph. –How to Be Popular    

How to Be Popular

by Meg Cabot
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Steph has been a social outcast for the past five years because she accidentally spilled a cherry Big Gulp on a popular girl. This year, Steph’s determined to step out of her comfort zone and join the popular crowd. In order to change her social standing, Steph plans to follow the book How to Be Popular.

In the process of gaining the friendship of the popular crowd, Steph must decide if she’s ready to get rid of her nerdy best friends Becca and Jason. Will Steph throw away her old friends in order to party with the popular kids and hang out with the school quarterback?

Steph is a relatable character who, like many, struggles with the desire to be part of the popular group. Steph’s character is well developed, and her point of view is endearing. Steph’s family relationships add an interesting and often comic element to the story. The book revolves around the usual cast of stereotypical high school characters—the mean girl, the cute high school quarterback, and the nerdy friends.

How to Be Popular is an easy-to-read story that follows a familiar, predictable plot. Although the story contains few surprises, Steph’s journey will entertain those looking for a romance appropriate for middle school readers. If you’re looking for a fun story to take to the beach, How to Be Popular would make a good choice.

Sexual Content

  • Steph finds a “steamy romance novel from the eighties. . . the heroine in one of them turned out to like having sex ‘Turkish-style,’ which in the book did NOT mean ‘while wearing a fez.’”
  • Steph thinks about Mark and Lauren who, “were totally canoodling” and how her friends, “don’t like seeing people putting their tongues in other people’s mouths, on account of the grossness factor.”
  • If Steph looks through her bathroom window, she can see into her neighbor’s window. She likes to watch him undress. She thinks, “my interest in seeing Jason undressed is purely scientific. Which is why I use the binoculars. . .”
  • Darlene has a large bust and Steph thinks boys “flock to her in hopes of someday being able to sink into her soft good-smellingness.” When Steph sits next to Darlene, “all eight of the guys at Darlene’s table yanked their gazes off the front of her chest and looked at me. Or the area just above the sticky part of my thigh-highs, to be more exact.”
  • Someone says that Steph’s grandpa is “warm for your form.”
  • Steph’s grandpa tries to explain how he got his fiancée. He says, “Well, the fact is, Steph, we Kazoulises, well, we’re a passionate bunch, and we know how to please a woman. . . Kitty’s a woman with needs, you know. . .”
  • Steph’s mom thinks Mark is going out with Lauren because Lauren “puts out.” Steph thinks her mom is “out of touch with reality” because “if I were going out with Mark Finley, I would totally put out, too. Even Father Chuck would understand that.”
  • When Steph is looking through her neighbor’s window, she sees him kissing a girl. “BAM!!! They were smashing their lips up together.”
  • In order to manipulate Steph, Mark kisses her. “. . . Mark had leaned down and put his mouth over mine. . . I have no idea whether or not I kissed him back. I was so surprised, I didn’t know what to do. . . I think I just stood there, letting him kiss me. . .” While kissing she “tried really hard to see the fireworks and hear the choir and the birds. . . And I saw them. And heard them. Did I ever.”
  • Steph kisses a boy “so much, in fact, my lips feel a little chapped. But in a good way.”


  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • While watching teens cruise up and down the street, Steph sees a girl “barf up all the Mike’s Hard Lemonade she ingested while sunning herself over at the lake that afternoon.”
  • During an assembly, Steph describes the convocation, “when we all gather in the auditorium to listen to ex-drug addicts and people who killed their friends in drunk driving accidents talk about their experiences.”
  • Several times Steph’s mom says, “God, I need a drink.”
  • A boy from school is planning a party where everyone will get drunk. Someone brings a keg to the party.


  • Damn, dang, and beeyotch are used once.
  • God and oh my God are occasionally used as exclamations.
  • Steph thinks she is a moron.


  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Steph is Catholic and thinks about going to confession. “I am fully going to ask God for forgiveness about this during Communion in church tomorrow. Since I can’t ask Father Chuck. Might as well go straight to the top.”
  • Steph’s “Grandpa stopped going to church after Grandma died. . . But Grandpa says he can worship God just as well on the ninth hole as he can in the church—if not better; since he’s closer to nature, and therefore, God, on the golf course than he is in our pew at St. Charles. I fear for his immortal soul. . . but I figure if God really is all-forgiving . . . Gramps will be all right.”
  • Steph thinks that Darlene is nice because when the mean girls “were in line to get meanness from God, Darlene must have seen a butterfly and gone running after it, or something, since she doesn’t have a mean bone in her body.”
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“I was working so hard to get popular—and then stay that way—I didn’t actually ever have a chance to enjoy it,” Steph. –How to Be Popular    

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