Cara has never been one of those girls: confident, self-possessed, and always ready with the perfect thing to say. A girl at the very top of the popularity tower. One of the Populazzi.Review:
Now, junior year could change everything. Cara’s moving to a new school, and her best friend urges her to seize the moment—with the help of the Ladder. Its rungs are relationships, and if Cara transforms into the perfect girlfriend for guys ever-higher on the tower, she’ll reach the ultimate goal: Supreme Populazzi.
The Ladder seems like a lighthearted social experiment, a straight climb up, but it quickly becomes gnarled and twisted. And when everything goes wrong, only the most audacious act Cara can think of has a chance of setting things even a little bit right.
I'm going to say right up front that I absolutely, wholeheartedly ADORED this book. Hilarious, well written, and realistic, Elise Allen's Populazzi kept me laughing and cheering throughout, which gives me all the more reason to suggest you must read this book as soon as possible- if not sooner!
Everything changes for Cara with two simple words from Claudia, her best friend: the Ladder. The Ladder is a way for Cara to get everything she has wanted from high school: confidence, self-assurance, and most importantly, the much-coveted top spot on the Populazzi tier of the Ladder. At first, Cara laughs of her friend's suggestion, saying that they have always wished everything would change since they were little kids. However, soon enough, Claudia has rooked Cara into the plan, and before she knows it, Cara is quickly climbing the rings, going higher and higher. What happens, though, when the Populazzi level isn't as nifty as it seems? What happens when you start to lose parts of yourself, the best parts, as well as a chance with the boy of your dreams because of it? Cara has a lot of thinking to do, but it's sure to one fabulously extraordinary trek through the many tiers of the crazy social ladder of high school...
If there's one thing that always make a book for me, it's a witty and fierce yet sometimes flawed main character, and Cara was just that. Cara is the type of girl that everyone has been at least once in life: someone who desperately wants to find their place in the world. I know I have been, and that's why I loved her journey through Populazzi. What I loved most about her character, however, was the fact that she was one hundred percent realistic. She gives people benefits of doubt. She loves and helps people, even when they don't necessarily desevere it. She's a good friend and sometimes she isn't. She screws up sometimes and makes mistakes, but she doesn't let them get in the way. Instead, she learns from them. Sometimes it takes her a while and some more mistakes for her to do so, but she does eventually and that makes all the difference.
With the addition of her character, there were many more fabulous ones as well. One was Claudia, Cara's best friend. Claudia was charming as well, and her friendship with Cara was endearing and fun to read about as well. There also was Archer, Cara's possible love interest and friend. Oh, was he hilarious, especially when he and Cara bantered back and forth. I was constantly laughing out loud when Cara and Archer made their way together on the pages, and if I wasn't, I was most likely going "Aww!" or something of that effect. The whole Populazzi crew was something as well- something evil but a great addition as well.
Moving on, I adored the plot in this one. Elise did such a great job of portraying the many different social scenes of high school and with lots of truth and comedy nonetheless. I also enjoyed how she made Cara's trek through the ladder something that was intricate- something that took some time as well as plenty of funny events to develop!
Elise's writing was also great. I don't normally full out laugh-out-loud during books. Sure, I chuckle lightly at times. However, with this one, I couldn't stop laughing, especially when a certain song was involved (*hint, hint*).
Hilarious, heartwarming, and just out right excellence, Populazzi is a novel that calls to be read, and Elise Allen is an author to watch, because if this book was any indication, her future books are sure to be magnificent!
Populazzi is now out!
Source: First copy from publisher via Netgalley, second copy provided by publicist at BookSparksPR for blog tour
As part of the blog tour, I also had the chance to ask Elise some questions. So without a further ado...
- They’ll laugh! Poor Cara gets herself into all kinds of mortifying situations along the way in Populazzi, and while they’re pretty hideous for her, they’re really entertaining for the rest of us.
- The story and the characters are very real, even when they’re quirky and out there. Cara’s quest to figure out where she belongs is something we’ve all experienced. I’ve spoken to so many people who are loooooong out of high school, but still remember that feeling of desperately looking for that place where they could feel accepted and embraced.
- You can play Where’s Waldo to find my dog in the book. Here’s a picture of him (look right). Note the little white paws and white bib. He is the only character in the book lifted from real life. He doesn’t mind – he feels he was portrayed accurately.
Populazzi tells the story of Cara Leonard, so would you mind sharing a little about her? In addition, if you could offer her some advice, what would you say?
Cara’s smart, quirky, quick-witted, and absolutely fabulous in so many ways… but at the start of the book, nobody except her best friend Claudia knows it. Cara herself has no clue how great she is; all she sees is that the Populazzi – those glowing, incredibly popular girls who thrive in the center of attention and always know the right thing to say – don’t even know Cara is alive. Compared to them, Cara feels completely invisible. She’d love to be as confident as they are, but there’s just no way.
What I’d love to tell Cara is she’s wrong! If she stopped comparing herself to other people and was just fearlessly herself, she’d be just as glowing and fabulous as anyone. By that I don’t mean she’d be popular – I mean that popularity wouldn’t matter anymore. We see it in the book when she’s with Archer and Claudia, the two people with whom she feels most comfortable. She shines with them, and if she could get past her fears of judgment and rejection, she’d be much happier and save herself a lot of trauma.
Of course, then I wouldn’t have a book, so I’m glad she has to stumble her way through.
In Populazzi, you address the topic of popularity, which leaves me to wonder the following: what inspired you to do so?
I’m well out of high school, but I remember those feelings so well – the desperate wanting to belong, looking at the popular group and thinking how freeing it would be to have that easy confidence and never second guess yourself. Remnants of those feelings stay with us forever. Each time I go into a new situation with people I don’t know, part of me goes back there and a little corner of my mind spins with thoughts like, “Will the other moms at my daughter’s new school like me? Will I fit in with the authors at this event?”
Certainly it’s different now – I’m happy with who I am, warts and all, so if people don’t like me it’s a bummer and not the earthshattering horror it was in middle and high school – but I have a visceral memory of what that was like, and how powerful it was back then. At its essence, the quest for popularity is really a quest to be seen and accepted for who you are, despite the fact that it often leads to acting unlike your true self. That’s a complex and incredibly compelling drive, and one I was excited to write about.
If Populazzi had a theme song, what would it be?
“Born This Way” by Lady Gaga. It wasn’t even out when I was writing the book, but it encapsulates the underlying message. With the exception of a few characters, most notably Robert Schwarner (who might be my secret favorite), every single person is wearing a mask of some kind. They need to be seen a certain way in order to protect themselves. The song – and the book, thematically – throws that out the window. If you want to be happy, you need to embrace yourself for who you truly are, and don’t worry about what other people think.
Full disclosure: I am horrible at titles! Populazzi is so the obvious title for the book, but I had no clue. The term was there from the beginning, but it took my amazing-wonderful-fabulous manager Fonda Snyder to point it out to me!
With your previous book, Elixir, you collaborated with Hilary Duff, which leaves me to wonder the following: do you prefer working solitary on a book, or with another person, or even a mixture of both?
Quite honestly, with the possible exception of people who self-publish, there’s no such thing as working solitarily on a book. From the earliest stages of Populazzi I had input from my critique group and from my manager Fonda. Once we sold the book, my editor Samantha McFerrin became instrumental in helping me shape it; she pushed me to explore deeper and look closer every step of the way. As the book neared completion, I had friends and colleagues read it and give their thoughts. You’ll see the Acknowledgements section of the book is pretty full, and I’m grateful for every bit of input I had along the way.
That said, Populazzi is certainly my vision, as opposed to Elixir and its sequel Devoted, which are Hilary’s vision. That’s a different process, but it’s not unlike writing for TV, which I’ve done for years. When you write a TV show (unless you created it), your job is to bring someone else’s vision to life. It’s just as creative and just as much fun, but in a very different way. I love writing with Hilary; I love working in TV; I love crafting “solo” novels. I’ll be very happy to keep doing all of it.
What’s your favorite part of being a YA author so far?
The most rewarding thing is hearing from people who read and enjoyed the book. I spent so much time with these characters and love them so much, it’s thrilling every single time I get an email or read a review from someone out there who also connected with them. I had the best time when one reader live-Tweeted me as he was reading the book. I loved hearing his reactions as he went through Cara’s wild ups and downs with her.
Name three things your fans would be surprised to know about you.
I’ve run fifteen marathons (and several half-marathons), and am now training for the 2011 New York City Marathon.
I have a collection of old metal lunchboxes prominently displayed in my kitchen, including my faves, from Knight Rider, Superfriends, and The Muppet Show.
I met my husband on a blind date… and fell fast asleep on him in the middle of it. Mid-conversation. Shockingly, we’re still together.
What’s up next for you book wise? Is there anything else you would like to add?
The next thing is a co-writing project. Hilary Duff’s Devoted, the sequel to Elixir, comes out in October. Beyond that, I have two book ideas I’m working on, plus a TV project.
Another project I’ve been enjoying is Populazzi.com (www.populazzi.com), a lifestyle site that builds on the underlying message of Populazzi: fearlessly embracing your true self. It has all kinds of great articles, but my favorite section is Life Beyond the Ladder, where successful people talk about their high school experiences and how those dramas and traumas made them who they are. We’ve had incredible people come by so far, including author Eileen Cook (Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood), screenwriter David Hayter (X-Men, Watchmen), and Tony-nominated actress Stephanie D’Abruzzo (Avenue Q).
The only other thing I’d like to add is a HUGE THANK YOU for having me on the blog, and for all your fantastic questions!
No thank you for stopping by! Your answers were fabulous!