Friday, September 30, 2022

The Market by J.M. Steele

Title: The Market
Author: J.M. Steele
Publication: Hyperion, paperback, originally published in 2008
Genre: YA
Setting: New Jersey-ish
Description: High school senior Kate Winthrop has loving parents, two wonderful friends and got into Brown so life should be perfect. But when she finds out she is ranked 71 out of 140 girls in her class by a secret website, The Market, she is indignant. Her friends think a makeover and some behavior modification will boost her self-confidence and her ranking – and they’re right. Following this plan and hanging out with “It Girl” Gretchen and Kate’s crush Will increases Kate’s ranking dramatically but starts to take over Kate’s life, damaging her friendships, her part-time job, her reputation with her teachers. Can she regain her common sense before she alienates everyone who liked her just the way she was?

My Impression: I am not sure where I picked this up but I came across it several days ago and it seemed like the perfect book to read on the train and pass along to my 9th-grade niece. Although the topic has been done before, I liked that Kate is a smart and attractive girl who works in a bookstore but has never really made the most of herself so appears average. It’s human to envy the Queen Bees who saunter through life with effortless popularity but if Kate were paying attention to the clues, she would realize the Mean Girls are not really happy. The reader sees Gretchen’s critical parents and lifestyle are not worth yearning for. One false note is that Kate’s mother is obsessed with joining the local country club – Kate is critical of her mother’s dream and doesn’t seem to recognize her desire to be popular is exactly the same. Only Kate’s father seems to be the rational member of the family, more or less telling her to stop trying to change.
We know this popularity plan has gone too far when Kate’s friend Dev pretends Kate’s grandfather has died (I was reminded of my brother’s college roommate who “lost” his grandmother several times when he had big tests or papers and needed extra time). The unmerited condolences and sympathy nearly bring Kate to her senses but she is also afraid of getting her friend into trouble, so she says nothing:
Down the street, I could hear the whine of an engine zooming away, and it wasn’t until I glanced down at my feet that I discovered there was a modestly wrapped gift leaning against the doorjamb. I picked it up, and as I held it in my hands, I realized almost immediately it was a book.

I closed the door and made my way into the kitchen, where I unwrapped the present. It was a copy of A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis.
If Kate were smarter, she would have known that a boy who gives you a book by C.S. Lewis simply has to be the hero (and it wasn't heartthrob Will)! However, for an intelligent girl, Kate makes a lot of bad choices in her quest to be popular.  However, despite the fact this book was full of clich├ęs, the story of Kate’s ascension to uber-popularity and her rapid fall when she realizes she has been betrayed was enjoyable. You can’t help wondering when reading this type of book: could one do high school better this many years later/with the benefit of hindsight or is high school in the age of social media just too dreadful to contemplate?

Source: Personal copy.  Entertaining but my favorites on this theme continue to be My Sister Mike and How Not to Be Popular.

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