Monday, October 31, 2011

Popular by Alissa Grosso (A Book Review)

Hamilton Best is beautiful and perfect, the queen bee of Fidelity High, attended to by her worker bees, The Clique.  Her posted guest lists to her fabulous parties leave students either jubilantly bouncing off the lockered hallways or weeping and gnashing their teeth in the lav.  You know you’ve arrived when Hamilton takes notice of you.  But all is not well amongst the clique—Olivia, Nordica, Zelda, and Shelly.  Each has her own agenda and Hamilton is not on it.  But Hamilton has a secret, one only known by her boyfriend, Alex.  And it might just have the power to undo them all. 

Popular is told in first person through six people’s alternating points of view: Hamilton, Olivia, Nordica, Zelda, Shelly, and Alex.  I picked up this book at a conference and didn’t have the slightest clue what to expect.  All I could tell was that it wasn’t my typical read (not a bad thing, per se).  This is probably the most POV’s in one story that I’ve ever read and I confess, a couple of times I scratched my head and wondered if there was a point.  There is.  Go with it. 

What Ms. Grasso effectively manages to do is create a sense of impending portent.  I knew “something” was going to happen. That mood is what kept me turning the pages.  I guessed that it would be big and bad…though it ended up not being any of my initial imaginings. That’s a good thing.  Would it be bragging if I say I figured it out ahead of time, but barely?  (I am SO biting back a 1999 movie quote right now, it’s almost painful. But it could be a spoiler if you’re familiar with the movie…so I shall refrain.  But feel free to contact me if you’re curious)  ;)

A note of critical analysis, as always.  This story is told through a lot of first person internal narration. We’re camped inside the characters’ heads much of the time, not necessarily a bad thing but I thought that the “voice” of each of the characters seemed to be a bit mature, considering none of these kids seemed quite qualified to be pre-ordering a maroon Harvard hoodie.   

My favorite part of the book: It ended differently than it began (in a good way).  I love when music does that.  I love when life does that. A literary Sour Patch Kid. This was where the surprise factor came in for me. That’s the part I didn’t see coming.  But it ended the way I want all my books to end.  Me with a content smile on my face. 

Parental concerns:  Cussing.  A couple of non-descript kisses.  That’s all folks.  J
          --Suzi Ryan

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