Book Launch: Popular by Maya Van Wagenen

On Wednesday night, I was lucky enough to go to the launch for the book that’s causing a storm both in the US and here in England. Written by 15-year-old Maya Van Wagenen, Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek is an eighth-grader’s memoir about her extraordinary journey from social outcast to daring 1950’s lookalike in pearls- something that was simply not done in her small middle school on the Mexican border.

IMG_1995The story is basically about her discovery of a book written by Betty Cornell in the 50’s all about teenage popularity. Maya decided it would be interesting to follow the advice given in the book to the letter as a sort of social experiment, and see if it could translate into the modern day- as, in her own words, she had “nothing to lose”. From girdles to gloves and hats, the next year of her life was an interesting one to say the least, from materialistic things, to mannerisms and confidence tests.

IMG_2107The book launch was held on the tenth floor of the Penguin offices on the strand, with a breath-taking view over London, especially late at night. The reason I was lucky enough to go was because my parents run a vintage clothing and homewares business and were invited to come along with some of their stock, so I joined them to help out. After getting dolled up by the 50’s hair and makeup pop-up salon that came along, we spent the evening chatting to various bloggers and people from Penguin, before going to hear Maya herself speak.

IMG_2006The evening was hosted by the editor of Glamour magazine, Jo Elvin, who interviewed Maya and then opened it up to us to ask questions. I can honestly say I was blown away by how eloquent and insightful she was for a girl of fifteen, there were definitely strong feelings of inadequacy within me  when hearing her speak! She talked about the project, which she described as her hunt for the true meaning of popularity. When asked if she had managed to find the answer, she smiled and said simply that there was no true definition. She knew only what it wasn’t; it wasn’t the clothes you wore or the way you walked, or having everyone know your name. It’s about realising that there is no difference between those at the top and the bottom; they both have the same worries, the same fears, and the same hopes. It’s about being able to put that to one side, put yourself out there and treat people as your equal, and they will reciprocate.

IMG_1957Maya is by no means your average high school ‘popular’ girl, but she’s happy. Whilst the book puts across this message skilfully, and if definitely a must-read- especially for pre-teens- it’s not until you meet her in person that you realise what an inspirational person she is and how much we could truly learn from her. At fifteen, with a movie already in the works and a best-selling book, I feel this is nowhere near the last we are going to see of Maya Van Wagenen.

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Paper Views: The John Green Hype

As a teenage girl who frequents Tumblr and YouTube like I am paid to do so, it’s inevitable that I would be swamped with hazy nature photos overlayed with supposedly deep and meaningful quotes. Prominently among these are the one and only John Green; the king of the coming-of-age novels of our generation. Whilst this title is all good and well, do they really live up to the hype?

 

TFIOSThe Fault In Our Stars
This was the first book I read by John Green, soon after it was published in 2012, and before it was turned into a quote dictionary for pale indie bloggers. Telling the story of Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters, TFIOS manages to capture the thought process of teens and makes a pretty hard to imagine situation actually quite relevant to the reader. Which is pretty impressive, especially having been written by a thirty-something-year-old father of two. It has the incredible ability to wrap its audience around its little finger and take them on an emotional rollercoaster, before dumping them back down into reality with little ability to recover. I’ll admit it- I cried.

 

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Looking For Alaska

The second book by John Green that I read was Looking for Alaska, which I immediately fell in love with. He has this incredible ability to make the reader find a piece of themselves inside every character; whether it be weedy, biography-obsessed Miles Halter, or crazy, unpredictable, beautiful Alaska Young. I won’t spoil the ending for anyone who hasn’t read it, but it’s one of those conclusions that leaves you screaming inside with the injustice of it. Moreover, I can’t help but see a modernised likeness to Holden Caulfield (The Catcher in the Rye) in Miles that emphasises the idea that John Green has done for our generation what Salinger became an icon for. Is it up to the same standard? That’s up to you to decide for yourself.

 

DSC_0302An Abundance of Katherines

As a self-confessed math geek, I’ll admit that this book, and the incredibly poignantly presented character of Colin, intrigued me on an intellectual level. However, I must say that I  found it hard at times to move past the completely unrealistic and almost pre-teen story line; including a quest for more Katherines for Colin to date and a chart which claims to predict the future of any relationship based on  several factors of the personalities of the two people. Although probably my least favourite of his novels, it is an entertaining read and once again, John displays his ability to create characters to whom everyone can relate. I mean, aren’t we all just searching for our own “Eureka moment”?

 

Paper TownsDSC_0308

Ever wished that one night you’ll hear the patter of pebbles on your bedroom window and look out to see a silhouette in the night, a voice promising excitement and adventure? Well I know I certainly have, and so did Quentin Jacobsen- although, fortunately, in his case he gets his wish in the form of thrill-seeking yet beautifully damaged Margo Roth Spiegelman. Their relationship has many similar features of that of Alaska and Miles, with the ending being ultimately less upsetting, but in other ways a whole lot more tragic. There are many beautiful moments in this book that caught my breath and John once again displays his ability to play on the reader’s heartstrings.

 

DSC_0310Will Grayson, Will Grayson

This is an unlikely story of two boys- very different yet oddly similar in ways which go further than just their names. I’m still completely on the fence about whether I liked this book; in some ways I thought it was brilliantly written and I loved the idea that the dual-author aspect made each chapter like a reaction to the previous one. I also liked some of the characters, in particular the Will Grayson who likes to only write in non capitals, which I think was actually David Leuithan’s part. I wouldn’t count is as one of my favourites, but as a Christmas present it was definitely an enjoyable read.

 

So are they worth the hype? It’s hard to say really; whilst people can criticise them all they like and say that the writing itself isn’t the best quality, no one can say that they don’t have a place in the literary world. The numerous awards his books have won are testament to the huge audience which they captivate and the fact that TFIOS is being made into a movie is proof that these kind of books sell. As long as you don’t try and compare John to the likes of Salinger and Fitzgerald, and just accept that he is at the forefront of a new wave of teen writers, then he fares pretty well. Plus, he doesn’t half know how to turn people of all ages into blubbering idiots.

Rhythm and Views: Reading Lineup Reaction

If you were scrolling through Twitter at any point on Monday night, you will have no doubt run into countless over-excited teens alternately fangirling and complaining about this year’s Reading & Leeds Festival lineup. I thought it might be a good first post for me to talk about which side of the line I stand and who I’m especially excited about seeing.

For a long time now, I’ve wanted to go to Reading. Aside from the fact that it is only 10 minutes away from my dad’s house, it’s always struck me as the epitome of a perfect weekend: hundreds of thousands of like-minded people, a fuckload of great music, and a general consensus that everyone just wants to have a good time. Due to being a student, which of course comes with the obligatory lack of money, this is the first year I’ve been able to afford a ticket and to be honest it’s the only thing enabling me to look past exam season and to a summer that I hope will be fabulous.

As is always the case with music, I know that there’s a hell of a lot of people out there that’ll completely disagree with my opinions but isn’t that part of the fun of it? It would certainly be a lot more boring if everyone liked the same thing and there were no Beliebers to ridicule. So of course, this is just my personal opinion, feel free to agree or disagree to your hearts content.

Friday

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QOTSA– I’ll be completely honest and say I’ve never really been a massive fan simply because I haven’t listened to a lot of their music. I’ve heard a crazily wide range of opinions on them so I guess the only way to find out is to listen myself. Failing that there’s always the Courteeners to go watch instead.

Paramore and Lily Allen Visit FUSE's "The Sauce" - June 13, 2007

Paramore– Aside from a brief stint in year 9 when I thought that “The Only Exception” was the best song ever written, I’ve never listened to a lot of Paramore songs but the ones I do know are definitely danceable, so you can’t go far wrong with that. Won’t be rushing to the front but wouldn’t mind catching some of their set, if only for Hayley Williams’ famously great stage presence.

vampireweekend

Vampire Weekend– Wanted to see them live for a long time and I think a festival is their perfect venue to be honest. Very excited.

jimmyeatworldJimmy Eat World– It’s quite coincidental actually, as before this year I hardly knew of Jimmy Eat World, aside from “The Middle” of course, which was one of the first songs I learnt on guitar. Recently though I’ve listened to them a lot more and I’m definitely going to be at the main stage for their set.

courteenersThe Courteeners– Been in love with these guys for quite a while. Excited is an understatement.

drengeDrenge– Saw them live supporting Peace back in December and I can’t say I’m especially thrilled about repeating it, I just don’t get the hype. I think enjoyment definitely depends on level of intoxication here.

Saturday

arcticmonkeysArctic Monkeys– anyone that knows me wouldn’t have to ask my opinion on Arctics headlining, and they’d only have to look as far as my bedroom ceiling for reassurance. This time last year I would never have imagined I would see Arctics live so soon, let alone twice in one year. Since seeing them in October I know how incredible they are live and doubled with a festival atmosphere and the same friends I went with last time, I think it’s fair to say it will be an above average Saturday night.

Jake-BuggJake Bugg– Although I’ve always been a fan of his music and admired his ethic towards “real music”, he’s always struck me as, to be completely frank, a complete dick.Who knows though, maybe he’ll put that aside and give a great show, I’ve heard a lots of good things about him live so I’ll save judgement.

imagine dreagonsImagine Dragons– I know that this band are one that a lot of people have a strong hatred for, but I must admit I do actually like their music- I’m a sucker for songs that are easy to dance to.

foster-the-peopleFoster the People– It’s crazy how long I have wanted to see this band for, I’ve loved them for such a long time and it’s kind of surreal I will actually see them this summer. I just pray that they play lots of their older songs.

peacePeace– One of the bands I’m looking forward to seeing most, since seeing them last December I know how incredible they are live and I cannot wait to relive that.

bombaybicycleclubBombay Bicycle Club– For me, Bombay are that one band that you try to get tickets to see everytime they tour, yet for some reason or other you can never go. Believe me, it’s the most irritating thing. So when I heard they were playing Reading and actually headlining the main stage I was beyond excited, but I fear that seeing them would compromise any chance of a decent place for Arctics, even though they assure fans  on twitter that they would not clash, saying “we’re not that stupid”.

cagetheelephantcage03Cage The Elephant–  A band I used to love but haven’t listened to a lot of in recent months, I’m definitely excited to see them play live. Some of my friends saw Cage supporting Foals (no jealously there at all nope) last month and I heard incredible things about them so my expectations are high.

Sunday

blink-182Blink-182– This brings me back to my childhood so much, with Blink and Sum 41 blasting out of my CD, I was such a nineties kid. I’m really hoping that their set finishes later than Disclosure so I can see them; otherwise I might have to try and escape earlier for some good old reminiscing.

youmeatsixYou Me At Six– There was once a time when I had a lot of love for this band. I must admit that time isn’t now, but I’m still really looking forward to seeing them and rekindling my love. Plus I hear they’re amazing live.

DisclosureDisclosure– Although not typically a great electronic/dance fan, I have a definite soft spot for Disclosure, I think what they have done for the genre is phenomenal and they make the kind of music that means you can’t help but feel happy. I’ve heard from people that went last year that they were the best act of the festival, so I’m happy to see they’re headlining the NME stage. Very Excited.

clean-banditClean Bandit– One of the most hotly talked about bands since the lineup was released, I think it’s fair to say the crowd will be large and I will most likely be amongst them.

1975The 1975– Managing to pick up the Worst Band Award at the NME Awards recently, it’s rather ironic that they are now to play on the NME stage at Reading I must admit. Although I have to agree with the masses that say their songs all sound the same and they aren’t exactly the most original band, I don’t think some of their songs are half bad and I feel a festival could be a good venue for them… I guess we’ll have to wait and see. I must admit though, the way they write like // T H I S // all the time is beyond infuriating.

So that’s it. As you can probably tell I am over the moon with the majority of the lineup and I’m really hoping it’ll be a great weekend- well worth the ridiculous fee of £230 that I tried to transfer from my wages with my eyes closed in pain. However there’s always going to be disappointments and people that you’d love to see who don’t appear on the lineup. So who’s missing for me? Foals for one, I was really hoping they would play and I think they would be incredible to see at a festival so I’m definitely a bit gutted by that.

There’s plenty of others and I could talk about this subject for hours but I fear this post is too long already so I’ll end it here. Hope everyone who is going to Reading is happy with the lineup too, and I’ll see you there.

Beckie x

Third Time Lucky

Since I was a little girl, I’ve loved to write. From crappy love songs when I was 8 to poetry that I thought would change the world when I was 13, there has been no better way to hide myself away from the world than with a pen and paper.

Recently I’ve had to start to think seriously about what I want to do with my life, as I have to apply for university in just a matter of months. There was never really any question about  what I want to do, as no career seemed more perfect to me than journalism; of course I only ever saw the rose-tinted-spectacles view of it- the interviews with Hollywood celebrities, parties every night and the hustle and bustle of life in London or New York- basically a scene from The Devil Wears Prada.

Now, at 17 years old with hopefully a little more sense, I thought a blog would be a great place to start. I’ve tried this twice before, hence the name of the post, but this time I am hoping (possibly in vain) that I will actually be able to keep at it and not slack on posting like I  have previously.

To try and ensure this, I have decided that setting a regular post day was the best way to go. So at the moment the plan is to blog every Sunday talking about my week and just anything I want to write about (this could go completely wrong but we’ll see). Then at some other point of every week I will try and post on either Rhythm and Views or Paper Views, which are based on music and book reviews respectively.

As I write this it is the first beautiful sunny day of the year, which is something to treasure in England. While the weather and my consequential sense of optimism are both likely to be short-lived, I figure this is a good place to start and I’m excited to start blogging again.

See you soon for my first proper post,

Beckie x