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How to Be Popular

Chapter One

T-minus two days and counting
saturday, august 26, 7 P.M.

I should have known from the way the woman kept looking at my name tag that she was going to ask.

"Steph Landry," she said as she pulled out her wallet. "Now, how do I know that name?"

"Gosh, ma'am," I said. "I don't know." Except that, even though I had never seen this woman before in my life, I had a pretty good idea how she might have heard of me.

"I know," the lady said, snapping her fingers, then pointing at me. "You're on the Bloomville High School women's soccer team!"

"No, ma'am," I said to her. "I'm not."

"You weren't on the court of the Greene County Fair Queen, were you?"

But you could tell, even as the words were coming out of her mouth, she knew she was wrong again. I don't have Indiana county fair queen hair -- i.e., my hair is short, not long; brown, not blonde; and curly, not straight. Nor do I have an Indiana county fair queen bod -- i.e., I'm kinda on the short side, and if I don't exercise regularly, my butt kind of . . . expands.

Obviously I do what I can with what God gave me, but I won't be landing on America's Next Top Model anytime soon, much less the court of any fair queen.

"No, ma'am," I said.

The thing is, I really didn't want to get into it with her. Who would?

But she wouldn't let it go.

"Goodness. I just know I know your name from somewhere," the woman said, handing me her credit card to pay for her purchases. "You sure I didn't read about you in the paper?"

"Pretty sure, ma'am," I said. God, that would be just what I need. For the whole thing to have shown up in the paper.

Fortunately, though, I haven't been in the paper since my birth announcement. Why would I? I'm not particularly talented, musically or otherwise.

And while I'm in mostly AP classes, that's not because I'm an honor student or anything. That's just because if you grow up in Greene County knowing that lemon Joy goes in your dishwasher and not your iced tea, you get put in AP classes.

It's actually sort of surprising how many people in Greene County make that mistake. With the lemon Joy, I mean. According to my friend Jason's dad, who is a doctor over at Bloomville Hospital.

"It's probably," I said to the woman as I ran her credit card through the scanner, "because my parents own this store."

Which I know doesn't sound like much. But Courthouse Square Books is the only independently owned bookstore in Bloomville. If you don't include Doc Sawyer's Adult Books and Sexual Aids, out by the overpass. Which I don't.

"No," the woman said, shaking her head. "That's not it, either."

I could understand her frustration. What's especially upsetting about it -- if you think about it (which I try not to, except when things like this happen) -- is that Lauren and I, up until the end of fifth grade, had been friends. Not close friends, maybe. It's hard to be close friends with the most popular girl in school, since she's got such a busy social calendar.

But certainly close enough that she'd been over to my house (okay, well, once. And she didn't exactly have the best time. I blame my father, who was baking a batch of homemade granola at the time. The smell of burnt oatmeal WAS kind of overpowering) and I'd been over to hers (just once . . . her mom had been away getting her nails done, but her dad had been home and had knocked on Lauren's door to say that the explosion noises I was making during our game of Navy Seal Barbie were a little too loud. Also that he'd never heard of Navy Seal Barbie, and wanted to know what was so wrong with playing Quiet Nurse Barbie).

"Well," I said to the customer, "maybe I just . . . you know. Have one of those names that sounds familiar."

Yeah. Wonder why. Lauren's the one who coined the term "Don't pull a Steph Landry." Out of revenge.

It's amazing how fast it caught on, too. Now if anyone in school does anything remotely crack-headed or dorky, people are all, "Don't pull a Steph!" or "That was so Steph!" or "Don't be such a Steph!"

And I'm the Steph they're talking about.


"Maybe that's it," the woman said doubtfully. "Gosh, this is going to bug me all night. I just know it."

Her credit card was approved. I tore off the slip for her to sign and started bagging her purchases. Maybe I could tell her that the reason she might know me is because of my grandfather. Why not? He's currently one of the most talked about -- and richest -- men in southern Indiana, ever since he sold some farmland he owned along the proposed route of the new I-69 ("connecting Mexico to Canada via a highway 'corridor'" through Indiana, among other states) for the construction of a Super Sav-Mart, which opened last weekend.

Which means he's been in the local paper a lot, especially since he spent a chunk of his money building an observatory that he plans to donate to the city.

Because every small town in southern Indiana needs an observatory.


It also means my mother isn't speaking to him, because the Super Sav-Mart, with its reduced prices, is probably going to put all of the shops along the square, including Courthouse Square Books, out of business.

But I knew the customer would never fall for it. Grandpa's last name isn't even the same as mine. He was afflicted from birth with the unfortunate moniker of Emile Kazoulis . . . although he's done pretty well for himself, despite this handicap.

How to Be Popular
by by Meg Cabot

  • Genres: Fiction
  • hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen
  • ISBN-10: 0060880120
  • ISBN-13: 9780060880125