Received as a free ARC from Netgalley.
I feel like Populatti tried really, really hard to be what its author wanted it to be and fell horribly short. Considering there isn’t a single review below three stars that I’ve been able to find, I was expecting it to be pretty good, but most of the time I just felt underwhelmed.
As you can see from the summary, this book is about a girl whose social life depends on a social networking site her friend made. The friend, Crystal, is trying to get into a computer science program at MIT and plans to use the site for her portfolio, so a lot of love has gone into it. Supposedly Populatti is what rules the social scene at school. Unfortunately, I’m just not seeing it.
Does anyone remember the skit from The Amanda Show, The Girls Room? It had a few girls hosting a show in the girls bathroom, and one of them was named Amber. She always introduced herself saying “I’m popular!” and her friends would back it up (and even enforce it with violence). But then it turns out most of the people in the school either don’t like Amber or don’t even know her name.
Now imagine an entire novel of Ambers, only the writer was trying to make it seem like they actually ARE popular.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing inherently against books that are about high-class people who are popular and maybe a little bitchy. But these guys are sophomores in high school, spending all their time worrying about a site that boils down to an exclusive clique that even the book admits a lot of people see no value in being a member because they’re pretty much required to only socialize with other members.
That and I just don’t get Livi’s progression. She was apparently bullied in middle school, before she moved to Golden Hill, called ‘drumstick’ because of her supposedly large thighs. It’s implied she had no friends, and spent a lot of time alone. And then in high school she proceeds to exclude and gossip about people who aren’t in Populatti, doing the same thing. She doesn’t even realize it the entire book. Instead of realizing that Populatti is toxic and getting out, all she can think of is that her friends would stop spending time with her if she wasn’t part of the site, not realizing that they probably aren’t actually her friends if that were true. Sure in the end she realizes that Populatti isn’t perfect, but the ending left me underwhelmed just like the rest of the book. There’s really no resolution to anything.
The writing itself is problematic too most of the time. There are times when it’s great, usually descriptions, but a lot of the time, it’s much too simple, and it’s made clunky by the fact that the author likes dropping in brand names. And, I usually don’t complain about the formatting of a book since it’s an unproofed galley, but to be honest, the formatting errors were way horrid. Entire chapters would be smashed to the left, about five words per line, and often coupled with that, there would even be times when words were shifted around in sentences so that I had to read vertically to understand what the sentence was trying to say. This book was already self-published, but it only shows up at print, so I’m guessing that since it was picked up by a commercial publisher, they decided to add an e-book version, which is what I obviously got. But as I said, the errors were just a little too gross for me to overlook.
So yeah, this book was probably a little below mediocre. As I said, it tried so hard, but it just didn’t get where it wanted to.