Popularity: who has it, who wants it, and who won't get it is the topic of this story about two middle school friends who want to make the lives of their classmates more equitable, to disastrous results.
Middle school isn't a popularity contest. It's a war.
Perry and her best friend, Venice, are excited to be yearbook photographers and tell the story of their school through their art. But that's before they find out the truth: the spontaneous moments they're supposed to capture are all faked. Bossy eighth grader Anya gives them a list of the popular kids - her own friends - who Perry and Venice have to take pictures of. And that makes Perry super mad.
Yearbooks should include everybody - even the dorks. But Perry feels totally stuck. Until she starts taking flattering shots of the people on Anya's list, none of her candids will ever be chosen. Perry can't sit by and let this happen. But fighting back isn't going to win her any friends - she might even lose some.
Perry has to decide what's more important: fitting in... or standing out.
School Library Journal:
Cursed orange hoodies, toxic triangles, and conspiracy theories infiltrate Perry's world when she begins sixth grade. As junior photographers for the yearbook, Perry and her best friend, Venice, quickly discover shooting pictures is not about focusing, framing, and capturing the best moments, but, rather, about posing the popular kids. Determined to take a stand, they decide to photograph only "nerds," but when Venice starts falling for Leo and an increasingly complex plan evolves, Perry questions her motive. The popular eighth-grade yearbook editor, Anya, preys on Perry’s vulnerability, sending her spying and scheming. Perry gets behind in her schoolwork, worries that her friendship with Venice is "dunzo," and ultimately ends up in the principal’s office.
Middle grade readers will relate to the complexities of friendship showcased in this novel. Taking on everything from first boyfriends to the lure of popular older students, author Tracy successfully captures Perry's struggle to weigh options and choose sides. Perry’s panicked phone calls to her older sister, her deleted and revised text messages, and her narration throughout reveal her character as a typical middle schooler - confident at times and completely uncertain at others. Despite her struggles, in the end, readers will be satisfied that Perry begins to find her way, and they will be eager to learn how she moves forward in the sequel. VERDICT: Fans of Tracy's tween books will be excited to read the first installment in this new series. - Beth Parmer, New Albany Elementary Library, OH
Download the reading guide for Project (Un)Popular.
Project (Un)Popular was released in hardcover on June 14th, 2016.
Recommended for ages 9 and up, grades 4 and up.
Project (Un)Popular is the first in a series. Check out the sequel, Totally Crushed.