Apparently, this book will tell you what shoes to wear, how to fix your hair, and everything that really counts to be popular; it knows about popular—okay, I’ll stop. Coming off of reading the Airhead series, I kept lamenting the fact that Meg Cabot always falls back on the bitchy blonde popular girl stereotype, especially after having several books where the popular girl turns out not to be so bad after all (Princess Diaries, All-American Girl, Avalon High and Tommy Sullivan…). So going into this a second time, I really wasn’t keeping my hopes up. And I was wrong. Let’s talk about our main character Steph—she has her reasons for wanting to be in the In-Crowd, and while getting revenge on the bitchy popular girl and getting the hot senior president are two of those reasons, but both are overshadowed by Steph’s real reason. I got the genuine feeling that she wanted to move on from the embarrassing Super Big Gulp Incident, and the only reason people keep bringing it up is because of Lauren (aforementioned bitchy popular girl). I like that Steph isn’t so much of a goody two-shoes, although a few of her side comments made me cringe (like “She was the dimmest person outside of the Special Ed classes.” Or saying that she would have made fun of her friend Becca for being shy and a scrapbooker. Yeah, that’s really not cool.) Steph tries to be nice to everyone, and not overtly bitchy, even when she’s assimilated into the popular crowd. She’s not perfect, we’re not supposed to sympathize with her because of her informed abilities, and she’s got her flaws and interests, like her managing her family’s store finances. The very first scene, when we see her and her friends covertly dumping sugar packets on Lauren felt realistic to me, and it manages to be funny at the same time. And Steph actually grows throughout the book—she might not want to point fingers at Lauren, but she’s willing to apologize and try to be friends with the popular cronies who get taken down because of Lauren’s schemes. And even at the end of the book, when Steph gives her whole “Grow up and move on” speech, she turns around and invites Lauren to join her for coffee. Also, the way Steph goes about becoming popular is great—she doesn’t become a bitch, she doesn’t try to sacrifice her friends, and really, all she does is try to become more involved in school. It’s a refreshingly positive thing to see; why can’t there be more of this in young adult books?The book doesn’t have much a plot to it, though. There’s the usual, slightly boring, budding romance between Steph and her childhood friend Jason; a very exaggerated family drama in Steph’s family between her mother and her grandfather; and the big climatic scene where Steph has to chose between doing what’s right and getting in with the A-Crowd is kind of overblown and feels wooden. There’s no real strong supporting cast, either—Becca feels like she’s never really there (and ends up with someone who doesn’t get introduced until halfway into the book) and Jason is the designated love interest because he just is. Steph’s family exists to be big and wacky, although I did get the sense that she was really close to her grandfather. However, the book largely works because it’s more focused on Steph and how she tries to change her social status without changing her real self.This is an example of Meg Cabot writing a good book. There’s some flaws to it, but it’s enjoyable, and you want to keep rooting for Steph. It’s frothy fun that doesn’t rely on giving a few traits to force the reader into sympathizing with the main character. I don’t know why I gave it such a low rating when I first read it (probably because of the lack of plot). But now, I can count it among one of my favorite stand-alone books by her.