As part of our ongoing collaboration with the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, our writers have accepted the challenge of reading and reviewing pre-publication review copies of highly anticipated young adult literature. The reviews are posted here for our readers, but also will be sent to the Book House where they will hopefully be used to inform customers about the books they may want to purchase.We will try to publish one review a week for the spring.
The reviews contain spoilers, so be forewarned!
by Kristen Tracy
Published June 14, 2016
315 pages, Delacorte Books for Young Readers
If you ever want to find out what really happens in the yearbook club at your school, read the book Project (Un)Popular by Kristen Tracy. This book follows the story of sixth grader Perry Hall as she struggles to create a less corrupted yearbook, despite being bossed around by eighth grader Anya, who just wants pictures taken of her and her popular friends. With the help of her best friend Venice, Perry will fight to get everyone represented in the yearbook, and run into many complications in the process.
I really liked all the characters in this book, Perry especially. I found it very easy to relate to her and the conflict she was dealing with. Throughout the story, Perry’s best friend Venice hangs out and eventually develops feelings for a seventh grader named Leo. Perry absolutely despises him, blinded by her jealousy. I feel like this aspect of the story allowed Perry to seem more human and flawed, like an actual sixth grader. I mean, who wouldn’t be upset that their best friend is spending way less time with them to see a boy she just met? I also could really connect with her because of her unsurity about everything and her lack of confidence. Middle school is a terribly confusing time for everyone, and I really got that feeling from Perry.
But one character that I thought fell flat was eighth grader Anya. I thought she had a lot of potential to be this deep, complex person from the way Tracy was writing her in the beginning. Anya always acted super nice towards Perry, but you could sort of tell that it was all an act for her to get what she wanted. I liked this, because it highlighted some main character development in Perry, but towards the end we don’t get a very clear explanation as to why Anya was acting this way. Perry and a lot of the other characters write her off as some kind of crazy person, which she was. Mostly because she was extremely paranoid that Perry,Venice, and Leo would ruin her yearbook. But I just wish the reader could get more information about Anya’s life and her thoughts. I am aware that the book will be part of a series, so I hope more of Anya is revealed throughout the rest of the storyline.
There were many themes in this book that I loved, and that are important to understand. The main one being the idea of harmful relationships. During a lot of the book, Anya has Perry on a leash trying to prevent Venice and Leo from getting someone less popular into the “What’s Hot” section of the yearbook. While Perry wants Venice to succeed, she is blinded by her hatred for Leo and Anya’s falsely kind words. Perry is Anya’s “infiltrator”, her eyes into Venice’s and Leo’s scheme, and Perry doesn’t really know how to feel about that at first. I think this ongoing conflict really illustrated the concept of toxic relationships and the importance of cutting harmful people from your life quite nicely. In real life, I think many people struggle with that, knowing when to step away from a person if they are “not good for them” in a way. In the end, Perry breaks away from Anya and helps Venice and Leo try to get an unpopular kid into the yearbook. Go Perry!
Overall, I really enjoyed Project (Un)Popular. It is meant for younger readers, but it was still a good read. The themes incorporated into the book are important for all ages to understand. The characters in the book were also quite realistic and relatable, other than Anya, who I hope gets built upon later on in the series. For anyone looking to read this book all I have to say is that it’s better than it looks!