My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan -- Seth Rudetsky
Three weeks into sophomore year, and Justin Goldblatt sets three goals. By the end of the school year, he'll have:
a) started dating someone (hopefully Chuck Jansen, the quarterback of the football team,
b) had his first kiss, and
c) become popular
His best friend, Spencer Larsen, doesn't really understand Justin's need to be popular, so when Justin starts fake-dating the most popular girl in school so that she can sneak around with Chuck Jansen behind her father's back, all the while hoping that he'll win Chuck's heart for himself, WELL. It's not that surprising that there'd be some friction, right?
From the first sentence, it's like Justin takes a deep breath, starts telling the story, and doesn't take another breath before he finishes. He's got boundless energy (well, mental energy), is witty, and is prone to digressions.
And yet, I wasn't a huge fan. Despite Justin's voice—and he really did make me laugh quite a few times—I found him a difficult character to like. Part of that was certainly due to his desperation to be popular, as there were moments when he took Trying Too Hard—which is never an attractive quality, though it's certainly not an uncommon one—to an excruciatingly new level. He was so self-absorbed that he treated people poorly, and despite his brains and his wit, I never felt like I connected with him. I can deal with an unlikable character that I understand/connect with, and I can deal with a likable character who I have to work to understand, but if I strike out in both arenas... eh.
Spencer, meanwhile, was so much more mature than Justin that A) he seemed years older and B) I never really understood why they were friends. I mean, Justin lays out the history—tells us how and why they became friends—but I sure never felt it. And so, when SPOILER BUT COME ON YOU KNEW IT WAS COMING they realize that they're in lurrrve with each other END SPOILER BCOYKIWC, the romance storyline ultimately fell flat for me.
But it certainly had its moments: I felt that the school scenes, especially, were dead-to-rights, and, like I said, Justin is occasionally really, really funny. So there's that.
Book source: Finished copy from the publisher.