When I saw the publisher’s blurb about My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan by Seth Rudetsky, it sounded too good to pass up. I think just about every kid in high school has at least wondered what it would be like to be one of the popular kids, part of Cool U. Is the price worth it?
Justin has always wanted to be one of the popular, cool kids. And he’s also got a huge crush on one of them, so he knows that if he could just become popular then this person would at least know he exists and might even go on a date with him. He knows if he can only become cool then his whole life will be perfect.
So he decides to approach his problem in a logical, step-by-step, grown-up approach. He refuses to think small, so he’s going for the grand prize. He develops two goals for his sophomore year in high school. Goal #1 = He will become the most popular person in school. To do that, he only has to get 8.3 kids per day to like him because there are 1,300 kids in his school. Goal #2 = He will date Chuck, the hottest guy in school. After all, Chuck might find him attractive and want to date him, and even kiss him.
“Instead, I’ve made it as difficult as possible for myself to ever fulfill my dreams of love. Yes, I, Justin Goldblatt, the school loser, have a crush on the oldest chestnut in the book – the unattainable star quarterback, Chuck Jansen! How cliché is that?”
There are only a few things that could get in the way of this awesome plan. Justin is bullied and taunted by a lot of the straight guys in school for being gay, even though he’s in the closet. His friends, Spencer and Mary, are definitely not part of the cool crowd. Justin’s hair is so curly it’s an afro; which he calls his Jewfro. His weight is a bit of an issue; so he’s plump, so what? He’s a tad vertically challenged. Oh yes, and the object of his crush, Chuck, is the hottest guy in school, straight and the football team’s quarterback. But these are all just minor details in the face of determination and a really good plan, right?
“On the surface, this would be a perfect problem to work out with Spencer because he’s so smart, but I always have to remind myself that his advice starts out helpful and then gets annoying. Especially about social issues. Yes, last year he helped me accept being gay, but two minutes later he couldn’t understand why I wanted to be popular.”
As he’s plotting out his plan of attack, Justin ends up in the right place at the right time and stumbles onto the perfect situation for implementing his plan. A popular girl, Becky, in school has always been nice to him. Chuck has been dating Becky but her father, a local doctor, despises Chuck and has forbidden her to see him anymore. Everyone at school thinks they’ve broken up but they’re sneaking around. Justin, whose parents are doctors and who aces all the biology and chemistry classes, offers to pretend to date her instead. He’s someone her dad might find acceptable. Then he and Becky can go out on fake dates and meet up with Chuck so Becky and Chuck can have time alone. And Chuck can begin to see the wonderfulness that is Justin.
“I looked at Chuck. He looked blank. I looked at Becky. She looked devastated. I realized what I had to do. ‘I know for a fact that Becky is through dating Chuck because’ – I gave Becky an intense look, hoping she knew where I was going with this – ‘your daughter is now dating me!’ I turned to her and immediately pulled her into our stage kiss.”
The plan works beautifully. Becky’s father thinks the very respectful Justin walks on water, so no problems there. To make things believable, Becky pretends at school to be head over heels for Justin and insists that he eat at the Cool U table at lunch. Soon all those kids who wouldn’t give him the time of day, or made his school life a living hell, are being super nice to him. Justin figures it’s only a matter of time before Chuck realizes how wonderful Justin is and falls for him. What could possibly go wrong?
There are some lessons in life that are harder to learn than others. This coming-of-age story is an excellent example of one of those lessons, being true to who you really are. It’s very well written, with sympathetic and realistic straight and gay characters who are struggling to figure out not only who they are but how to stand up for who they are. If you know a teen who’s closeted and/or being bullied and/or is straight but confused about the need to be popular vs. being true to themselves, My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan might be an excellent novel to give them.
Pretty much everybody has a tough time in high school. If you know someone or you are someone who is having a hard time because they think they might be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered, or are being bullied for being gay, please let them know that there’s help out there. Tell them to go online to TheTrevorProject or to phone toll free (866)488-7386 to talk to someone. Another excellent online resource is ItGetsBetter. There you’ll learn about amazing, well-known, very successful people who were bullied and/or were never the popular kid in school. Hang in there – it DOES get better!
My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan is being released on January 24, 2012, so it should be available for pre-order at your favorite bookseller below. Just click the button to go there to get it.
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