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How to Be Popular

Meg Cabot




  In memory of my grandfather,

  Bruce C. Mounsey



  I should have known from the way the woman kept…


  This is how Jason has been greeting me lately: “Yo,…


  I don’t know why I haven’t told Jason and Becca.


  I should hate him. But I don’t. It’s hard to…


  I met up with Grandpa in the observatory while everybody…


  Jason came over as I was laying out everything I…


  Well. This is it. Everything is ready. I have my:…


  “Good morning, Crazyt—What happened to you?” is what Jason said…


  “This is so lame,” Jason said as he started for…


  Everyone took off for lunch.


  The Bloomville High School cafeteria is a scary place, and…


  Jason and Becca were kind of quiet on the ride…


  The talent auction was definitely on. And, so as to…


  Mark Finley spoke to me at lunch again today.


  I think I died and went to heaven.


  Not everyone thinks Jason bailing on us is such a…


  Jason actually pulled over in front of my house while…


  I was late getting to lunch because I’d been running…


  The Bloomville Gazette is an afternoon paper, so I could…


  I was crazed all day getting ready for the auction:…


  It’s started.


  I was happy for Becca. I really was. I mean,…


  I seriously don’t get why everybody got so mad.


  I was just sitting on the bathroom counter, looking through…


  She didn’t say a word about it in the car…


  Well. It happened. They warned me, but I didn’t believe…


  It happened right as we were coming out of the…


  I can’t believe this is happening.


  Mark showed up at six on the dot, exactly when…


  Darren came out of the back room just as Mark…


  I couldn’t do it.


  He loves me.


  I woke up to the sound of someone yelling my…


  The wedding was beautiful. The rain cooled things off, so…


  I sort of forgot about the whole rager thing until…


  Later that night, I went into the bathroom and looked…


  About the Author

  Other Books by Meg Cabot



  About the Publisher

  * * *

  POPULAR : adj. Widely liked or appreciated; liked by acquaintances; sought after for company.


  We all want it. Why? Because being popular means being liked. Everyone wants to be liked.

  Sadly, however, not all of us are.

  What do popular people have in common that makes them all so popular?

  They all have:

  A friendly way about them.

  An eagerness to pitch in and help get the job done.

  An interest in everything that goes on at work or school.

  A look that’s fresh and neat.

  These aren’t traits popular people were born with. They’ve cultivated the characteristics that make them so popular…

  …and you can, too, by following the tips in this book!

  * * *




  I should have known from the way the woman kept looking at my name tag that she was going to ask.

  “Steph Landry,” she said as she pulled out her wallet. “Now, how do I know that name?”

  “Gosh, ma’am,” I said. “I don’t know.” Except that, even though I had never seen this woman before in my life, I had a pretty good idea how she might have heard of me.

  “I know,” the lady said, snapping her fingers, then pointing at me. “You’re on the Bloomville High School women’s soccer team!”

  “No, ma’am,” I said to her. “I’m not.”

  “You weren’t on the court of the Greene County Fair Queen, were you?”

  But you could tell, even as the words were coming out of her mouth, she knew she was wrong again. I don’t have Indiana county fair queen hair—i.e., my hair is short, not long; brown, not blonde; and curly, not straight. Nor do I have an Indiana county fair queen bod—i.e., I’m kinda on the short side, and if I don’t exercise regularly, my butt kind of…expands.

  Obviously I do what I can with what God gave me, but I won’t be landing on America’s Next Top Model anytime soon, much less the court of any fair queen.

  “No, ma’am,” I said.

  The thing is, I really didn’t want to get into it with her. Who would?

  But she wouldn’t let it go.

  “Goodness. I just know I know your name from somewhere,” the woman said, handing me her credit card to pay for her purchases. “You sure I didn’t read about you in the paper?”

  “Pretty sure, ma’am,” I said. God, that would be just what I need. For the whole thing to have shown up in the paper.

  Fortunately, though, I haven’t been in the paper since my birth announcement. Why would I? I’m not particularly talented, musically or otherwise.

  And while I’m in mostly AP classes, that’s not because I’m an honor student or anything. That’s just because if you grow up in Greene County knowing that lemon Joy goes in your dishwasher and not your iced tea, you get put in AP classes.

  It’s actually sort of surprising how many people in Greene County make that mistake. With the lemon Joy, I mean. According to my friend Jason’s dad, who is a doctor over at Bloomville Hospital.

  “It’s probably,” I said to the woman as I ran her credit card through the scanner, “because my parents own this store.”

  Which I know doesn’t sound like much. But Courthouse Square Books is the only independently owned bookstore in Bloomville. If you don’t include Doc Sawyer’s Adult Books and Sexual Aids, out by the overpass. Which I don’t.

  “No,” the woman said, shaking her head. “That’s not it, either.”

  I could understand her frustration. What’s especially upsetting about it—if you think about it (which I try not to, except when things like this happen)—is that Lauren and I, up until the end of fifth grade, had been friends. Not close friends, maybe. It’s hard to be close friends with the most popular girl in school, since she’s got such a busy social calendar.

  But certainly close enough that she’d been over to my house (okay, well, once. And she didn’t exactly have the best time. I blame my father, who was baking a batch of homemade granola at the time. The smell of burnt oatmeal WAS kind of overpowering) and I’d been over to hers (just once…her mom had been away getting her nails done, but her dad had been home and had kno
cked on Lauren’s door to say that the explosion noises I was making during our game of Navy Seal Barbie were a little too loud. Also that he’d never heard of Navy Seal Barbie, and wanted to know what was so wrong with playing Quiet Nurse Barbie).

  “Well,” I said to the customer, “maybe I just…you know. Have one of those names that sounds familiar.”

  Yeah. Wonder why. Lauren’s the one who coined the term “Don’t pull a Steph Landry.” Out of revenge.

  It’s amazing how fast it caught on, too. Now if anyone in school does anything remotely crack-headed or dorky, people are all, “Don’t pull a Steph!” or “That was so Steph!” or “Don’t be such a Steph!”

  And I’m the Steph they’re talking about.


  “Maybe that’s it,” the woman said doubtfully. “Gosh, this is going to bug me all night. I just know it.”

  Her credit card was approved. I tore off the slip for her to sign and started bagging her purchases. Maybe I could tell her that the reason she might know me is because of my grandfather. Why not? He’s currently one of the most talked about—and richest—men in southern Indiana, ever since he sold some farmland he owned along the proposed route of the new I-69 (“connecting Mexico to Canada via a highway ‘corridor’” through Indiana, among other states) for the construction of a Super Sav-Mart, which opened last weekend.

  Which means he’s been in the local paper a lot, especially since he spent a chunk of his money building an observatory that he plans to donate to the city.

  Because every small town in southern Indiana needs an observatory.


  It also means my mother isn’t speaking to him, because the Super Sav-Mart, with its reduced prices, is probably going to put all of the shops along the square, including Courthouse Square Books, out of business.

  But I knew the customer would never fall for it. Grandpa’s last name isn’t even the same as mine. He was afflicted from birth with the unfortunate moniker of Emile Kazoulis…although he’s done pretty well for himself, despite this handicap.

  I was just going to have to face the fact that, just like the red Super Big Gulp that wouldn’t come out of Lauren’s white denim D&G skirt—even though my dad tried. He used Shout and everything, and when it didn’t work, finally went out and got her a brand-new skirt—my name was going to be forever stained on people’s memories.

  And not in a good way.

  “Oh well,” the lady said, taking her bag and her receipt. “I guess it’s just one of those things.”

  “I guess it is,” I said to her. Not without some relief. Because she was leaving. Finally.

  But my relief turned out to be short-lived. Because a second later the bells over the front door to the shop tinkled, and Lauren Moffat herself—wearing the same white Lilly Pulitzer low-rise capris I’d tried on at the mall the other day, but had been unable to purchase due to the fact that they cost the equivalent of twenty-five hours of work behind the cash register at Courthouse Square Books—was coming into the store, holding a Tasti D-Lite from the Penguin, and going, “Mom. Would you hurry up? I’ve been waiting for you for, like, ever.”

  And I realized, belatedly, who I’d been talking to.

  Whatever. I can’t be expected to read the name on every credit card someone hands me. Besides, there are like hundreds of Moffats here in Bloomville.

  “Oh, Lauren, you’ll know,” Mrs. Moffat said to her daughter. “How do I know the name Steph Landry?”

  “Um, maybe because she’s the one who spilled that Big Red Super Big Gulp on my white D&G skirt in front of everyone in the caf that day in the sixth grade?” Lauren replied with a snort.

  And she’s never forgiven me for it. Much less let anyone forget about it.

  Mrs. Moffat flung a horrified look at me over the padded shoulder of her Quacker Factory sweater set.

  “Oh,” she said. “Dear. Lauren, I—”

  Which was when Lauren finally noticed me, standing behind the cash register.

  “God, Mom,” she said, giggling, as she pushed open the door to slip back out into the evening heat. “Way to pull a Steph Landry.”

  * * *

  Let’s begin by determining your level of popularity, or lack thereof:

  Ask yourself how others in your social sphere perceive you.

  Do they know who you are? If so, how do they treat you?

  Do they make rude remarks about you—behind your back, or to your face?

  Do they ignore you?

  Do others include you in their outings and activities, inviting you to social events or occasions?

  Judging by the behavior of others around you, you should be able to tell whether you are liked, merely tolerated—or totally unpopular.

  If you are merely tolerated or totally unpopular, it is time to take action.

  * * *



  SATURDAY, AUGUST 26, 8:25 P.M.

  This is how Jason has been greeting me lately: “Yo, Crazytop!”

  And yes, it is annoying.

  Too bad he doesn’t seem to care when I tell him that.

  “What’s the criminal master plot for the evening, Crazytop?” Jason wanted to know as he and Becca drifted into the store an hour after Lauren and Mrs. Moffat left it. Well, technically, only Becca drifted. Jason barreled. He actually swung up onto the counter and helped himself to a Lindt truffle from the candy display.

  Like he didn’t think this was going to make me mad, or anything.

  “You eat that, and you owe me sixty-nine cents,” I informed him.

  He dug a dollar out of the front pocket of his jeans and slapped it down onto the countertop. “Keep the change,” he said.

  Then he plucked another Lindt from the display jar and tossed it to Becca.

  Who was so surprised when the Lindt chocolate truffle came at her out of nowhere, she didn’t think to catch it, so it smacked her in the collarbone, fell to the floor, and rolled under the display cabinet.

  So then Becca was scrambling around on the A-B-C alphabet carpet, trying to find the lost truffle, and going, “Hey, there’re a lot of dust bunnies down here. You guys ever think of vacuuming this place, or what?”

  “Now you owe me thirty-eight cents,” I said to Jason.

  “I’m good for it.” He always says this. “How long until you can shake this cracker box?”

  He always asks this, too. When he knows the answer perfectly well.

  “We close at nine. You know we close at nine. We’ve been closing at nine every night since this place opened, which, I might add, was before we were born.”

  “Whatever you say, Crazytop.”

  Then he helped himself to another Lindt.

  It’s truly remarkable how much he can eat without getting fat. I have two of those Lindt balls a day, and by the end of the month, my jeans don’t fit anymore. Jason can eat like twenty a day and still have plenty of room in his (non-stretch) Levi’s.

  I guess it’s a guy thing. Also, a growing thing. Jason and I were almost the exact same height and weight all through grade- and middle school, and the first part of high school, even. And while he could beat me at chin-ups and anything involving throwing a ball, I regularly kicked his butt at leg-wrestling and Stratego.

  Then last summer he went off to Europe with his grandmother to see all the sites in her favorite book, The Da Vinci Code, and when he came back, he was six inches taller than when he had left. Also, kind of hot.

  Not Mark Finley hot, of course, Mark Finley being the hottest guy at Bloomville High. But still. That’s a very disturbing thing to realize about your best friend, even if he is a guy—that he’s gotten hot.

  Especially since he’s still trying to gain enough weight to catch up with his height. (I know. He has to gain weight.)

  The only thing I can beat him at now is leg-wrestling. He even figured out how to cream me at Stratego.

  And I think the only reason I can beat him at leg-wrestlin
g is just because lying next to a girl on the floor gets him a little flustered.

  I have to admit, since he got back from Europe, lying next to him on the floor—or in the grass on The Hill where we go a lot to look at the stars—gets me a little flustered, too.

  But not enough to keep me from being able to flip him right over. It’s important not to let hormones get in the way of a perfectly good friendship. Also to keep your mind on the task at hand.

  “Stop calling me Crazytop,” I said to him.

  “If the name fits,” Jason said.

  “Shoe,” I said. “The expression is, ‘If the shoe fits….’”

  Which caused Becca, having found the missing Lindt ball at last, to come up and go, “I love the name Crazytop,” all wistfully, while picking dust bunnies from her curly blond hair.

  “Yeah,” I said grouchily. “Well, that can be your nickname from now on, then.”

  But of course Jason had to be all, “Excuse me, but not all of us can be criminal masterminds like Crazytop here.”

  “If you break that display glass,” I warned Jason, because he was still sitting on the counter, swinging his feet in front of the glass display case beneath it, “I’m making you take all those dolls home with you.”

  Because behind the glass are about thirty Madame Alexander dolls, most of whom are based on fictional characters from books, like Marmee and Jo from Little Women and Heidi from Heidi.