October 1, 2011

Mean Girls invade 7th grade

Title and author: Life Was Cool until You Got Popular by Sarah Billington
Date: Sept. 1, 2011
ISBN: Kindle Edition
Source: Sarah Billington

Summary (from Goodreads):
Thirteen year old Kaley’s best friend Jules is an alien clone. That has to be it. Because Jules wouldn’t dress like that or act like that…and she definitely wouldn’t be friends with Meg-a-bitch. 

Kaley can't wait to start at her new school with her best friend Jules. Jules was away in Europe all summer (worst summer of Kaley's life!) But it's cool, now school is starting and everything is going to be awesome. However as the school bus pulls up on that first day, Kaley barely recognizes the silky hair and glossy lips as Jules gets off with the cool kids and with their arch-nemesis Meg, the popular girl (God only knows why) who made Kaley and Jules's lives miserable in elementary school. In Europe, Meg had somehow won over Kaley's best friend and Kaley finds herself frozen out.   

Life Was Cool Until You Got Popular is a first person MG told through Kaley’s eyes, chronicling the initial pain and incomprehension of what happened to destroy their friendship. But that doesn't last long. Kaley decides that underneath the bleached blond clone with the personality transplant, Jules is still in there. Somewhere. And she is going to get her best friend back! 

My Thoughts:   
Kaley is a delightful heroine in this novel. From the start she is loveable as a character, and the reader will find his/herself rooting for her…and at times for Jules as well.

The author takes care with the angst of starting anew: new school, new friends, new interests, etc. This is a natural part of process called “growing up,” and this realistic portrayal is what will delight readers the most.

The heart of this novel revolves around Kaley trying to win her friend back. At times I found myself becoming frustrated with her, wanting her to just move on to better things, and better friends. After all, if Jules was truly her friend, would she be so hateful to Kaley, or most importantly, allow others to be? (Think Mean Girls times five).

Billington has created the ultimate monster in the character Meg. It makes me wonder if she herself had to contend with such a character in middle school. After all, haven’t we all encountered the one person in school whose sole purpose was to make our daily school lives a living nightmare? I loathed Meg. I loathed everything about her character. In her, the author truly captures a realistic side to the true angst of growing up female.

Since the author has provided us with such a wretch in Meg, she also offers up delightful characters, creating a nice juxtaposition in those who come into Kaley's life. These characters help bring Kaley full circle as a character, and they provide the strength that helps with the pacing of the novel. My personal favorite is Travis, and that is all I will write about him. BUT, I do hope Billington writes a follow-up because I really want to read more about him. 

And did I mention the cat fights? No? Ah, well...they are good and funny and clever. This part of the plot was reminiscent of The Parent Trap camp scenes at the start of the film.

While I enjoyed the book as a whole, I do have a single complaint. It’s a small one, I promise. The book was sprinkled quite lightly with the use of profane words. I do not mind it in literature. I do not fear language at all. As a matter of fact, I enjoy using those words myself. But it bothered me in this particular novel because it seemed so out of place in where it appeared. There was only one character that truly pulled it off for me—Jamie. But when it was used by another character, it seemed contrived. Please don’t let this scare you off from reading the book. It is in there ever so lightly that I would have missed it, but Jamie’s phrase is so comical that it actually enhanced him as a comic relief to the realistic topic at hand. 

Like realistic fiction before, Life Was Cool until You Got Popular will strike a chord with readers of all ages, not just the tweens. For readers of Naylor’s Alice books, Rennison’s Georgia Nicholson books, or Myracle’s The Fashion Disaster That Changed My Life, they too will enjoy this novel.

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