Note - I read this book via NetGalley. Thanks to the publishers Harcourt children's Books for providing it to me in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Cara Leonard has always wanted to be one of the in crowd. One of the Populazzi. But when people remember you wetting your pants on the first day of kindergarten, it's hard to reinvent yourself. At least until you move across the city of Philadelphia. With a clean slate, and help from her oldest friend Claudia, Cara sets out to climb to the top of her new school's social ladder. Who cares if it means stepping on some boys' hearts as she moves up? It sounds like it's going to be so easy... but you know that it won't all go according to plan.
Let's face it, if you're reading a book with this premise, you're not expecting great literature. You're expecting bitchy girls, hot boys, and catty cliques. Populazzi absolutely has all of that in spades. The characters are larger than life but generally entertaining - with the exception of Cara's stepfather, who's just TOO horrific for me not to conclude that her mother is a grade A cow for not divorcing him years ago. In fact, when we first got to find out about his nastier side, I was half expecting this to turn into a very different book and was glad it didn't.
But while the parts about Cara's home life didn't ring true to me, everything else - the majority of the book - certainly did. I loved the way she tried to manipulate people even though it clearly wasn't part of her normal personality, I loved the social structure of the school, which author Elise Allen got completely spot on. I loved the way that just when I was thinking it was a predictable read there were a few curveballs thrown in to keep things fresh. And I loved the ending which was sweet but certainly didn't wave away all of Cara's problems.
Despite being reasonably long, this was a quick read for me because it was so pacy, things kept happening and I was glued to finding out how Cara got on in her quest for social success. Oh, and because I kept hoping minor character Robert, a fanatical Star Wars geek, would pop up again - and thankfully I wasn't disappointed!