Guest Post & #Giveaway : Musings on Popularity by Marnie Lamb

Today I have a guest post from author of upcoming release The History of Hilary Hambrushina, Marnie Lamb. Marnie has written an awesome post on her thoughts on popularity which is a theme in her upcoming book. I found her post really interesting and thought provoking and I hope you enjoy it. Marnie has also kindly offered two people the chance to win a paperback of her release, open internationally so be sure to check out the giveaway below. Happy Reading!

Synopsis: Hilary has one goal for her first year in junior high: to become popular. But her plans are turned upside down when her best friend leaves for the summer and a quirky girl named Kallie moves in next door. Kallie paints constellations on her ceiling, sleeps in a hammock, and enacts fantastical plays in front of cute boys on the beach. Yet despite Kallie’s lack of interest in being “cool,” Hilary and Kallie find themselves becoming friends. That summer friendship, however, is put to the test when school begins, reigniting Hilary's obsession with climbing the social ladder. As Hilary discovers the dark side to popularity, she must decide who she wants to be before she loses everything.

Publication date: May 31, 2017

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Musings on Popularity by Marnie Lamb

Much of my upcoming young adult novel, The History of Hilary Hambrushina, focuses on the quest of the main character, Hilary, to become “popular.” In the weeks leading up to the book’s publication, I find myself reflecting on how the connotation of the words “popular” and “popularity” has shifted for me from childhood to adulthood.

I don’t think that I was aware of popularity as a concept that applied to people until I was almost a teenager. Up until then, I thought of popularity as something that applied to things: books, TV shows,  food, even vacation destinations. I remember being influenced by others’ choices, wanting to wear certain clothes because I’d seen other girls at school wearing them or watch a specific TV show because “everyone was watching it.” Yet popularity was relatively harmless to me then. If my parents wouldn’t buy me the clothes or let me watch the show, I was disappointed but not devastated.

When I started junior high school, popularity took on a darker hue. Unlike at my elementary school, where everyone was more or less equal—except for “nerds” like me, who sat at the bottom of the social hierarchy—at this new school, a group of six or so self-appointed “cool” or “popular” girls ruled the seventh grade social scene. Their clothes, hairstyles, and musical preferences were to be emulated, their rulings of who was “in” and who was “out” adhered to like the most Draconian of laws.

The irony of using “popular” to describe these girls is clear to me only in hindsight. My fellow nerd friends and I would snark about these girls at our Friday night sleepovers, but at school, we’d snatch at any tidbit of kindness tossed our way. “That was a really good presentation, Marnie” or “I like your shirt” kept the bullying at bay. We swallowed and sustained ourselves on these off-hand comments the way a prisoner, grateful for an extra morsel of bread, gets the strength to live another day, all the while hating her jailer. “Feared” is a more accurate adjective to describe these baby queen bees. If the unconscious or semi-conscious feelings of the other students were known, these girls were probably more unpopular than most of us “losers.”

I’ve often heard people remark, “I’m so glad my high school years are long gone, and I don’t have to worry about wearing the same clothes as everyone else or avoiding certain people because they’re not ‘cool.’ That all seems like such a big deal at the time, but it’s really not important and thankfully, we grow out of that.”

Yet have we as adults really left behind all those concerns about being “popular” and doing what others do so as to avoid standing out? We like to think we’ve matured, but those early imprints leave a mark. 

How comfortable are we standing out from the crowd? How many minute and unnecessary compromises do we make in everyday social situations to avoid being different, ordering a dessert because everyone else is having one or agreeing to go to a club after dinner because everyone else seems gung-ho? The style may be more subtle and the consequences of refusal less threatening, but the message is the same as in our childhood days: Be one of the gang! Do as we do! A certain amount of compromise is necessary to any relationship. You can’t always have your way, and sometimes, doing something you hadn’t wanted to do introduces you to an experience that delights you or helps you grow. And in situations in which we deem standing by our choices more important than compromising, most of us do have more confidence to go against the crowd than we did in high school. 

Still, it’s na├»ve to suggest that adults don’t feel frustrated or controlled by peer pressure. Even in situations where we don’t give in, just feeling that pressure reveals the cost of swimming against the waves. For instance, for many reasons, I don’t drink alcohol. I can count on two hands the number of alcoholic beverages I’ve drunk in my life, and I don’t plan to consume any more. I have no issue with others’ choosing to drink, but that open-mindedness is not always reciprocal. “Why don’t you drink?” I’ve been asked countless times at parties, even gatherings where the guests were mostly people from my own church. No matter how many reasons I offer, some people simply cannot understand why I don’t make the same choices as they do. I’m frustrated not only with them for hammering at me with questions, but also at myself for trying to placate them in the first place. Why do I need to offer reasons for my behaviour? Why can I not simply state my choice and end the conversation? Do I care so much about the opinion of someone I’ve just met that I need to try to plead my case like a defendant in the dock?

In extreme moments, frustrated with the endless loop of these repetitive conversations, I’ve said to myself, “Maybe I should just have a drink to shut this person up.” I immediately see the ludicrousness of this thought, as if I should change my way of life, force myself to do something I don’t want to do just because an annoying stranger is pressuring me. The fact that I know I’ll never act on this thought doesn’t negate its existence, and this bothers me.

Maybe we use different terms—“conformity,” “social skills,” or even “thoughtfulness”—but are we still talking about popularity? Do we retain that innate desire for people to like us, so much so that we’re willing to alter or at least consider altering ourselves to please others, even in small ways? Perhaps that’s teenage popularity’s darkest legacy: that it never completely loosens its grip on us, its ability to make us question our own difference and choices.

Giveaway Rules:

*Giveaway is sponsored by author Marnie Lamb who will send you the book

*Giveaway is International

*There will be two winners each of which will receive a paperback of The History of Hambrushina

*Giveaway Ends 31st May 2017

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  1. An interesting theme. There are more important things than being popular, but maybe not to a young girl.

  2. This sounds like a very interesting read. I enjoy stories like this where teens are part of the story and their trials and tribulations!!!