Meet Doormat McLoser. She (or, more rarely, he) is a perfectly nice person, with many fine qualities, often including intelligence, compassion, and a devotion to a less-than-mainstream pastime, like the school newspaper, drama club, stamp collecting or playing the ukelele with her teeth. Unfortunately, she (or he) is also Unpopular. Oh, the angst of being Unpopular. Oh, the horror of sitting at the lunch table slightly closer to the garbage cans. Oh, the pain of being ignored in the hallways by all the People Who Matter. How she ever bear it?
She cannot! She will not! She will become Popular any way she can, no matter who she has to trample on or what she has to give up. It's all in the cause of Popularity!
To do this, she must befriend Glittery LaBeautiful. Everyone looooves Glittery LaBeautiful. She (or sometimes he) is rich, tall, thin (except for her C-cups), blond goddess who has perfect teeth, is a shoo-in for the valedictorian, and was accepted at an Ivy League school as an eighth-grader. She runs the school. Nothing is done without Glittery's say-so. She picks everything from the lunch menu to the spring musical. Ergo, the road to Popularity lies in Glittery's stiletto-heeled footsteps.
Unfortunately, Glittery isn't very nice. In fact, Glittery is a sociopath whose methods would make Hitler sit down with a notepad and pencil, and all her little cabal isn't much better. But Popularity is more important than self-respect, so Doormat will perform whatever wacky and degrading hijinks Glittery dreams up.
Eventually, the line is crossed, and Doormat discovers that her old friends (Awkward Dorkman and Nerdy Geekington III) are her True Friends, and that's all she needs. Oh, and remember Dreamy Boy Doormat Never Noticed Because He Was Just Too Geeky For Her? (You know he's there too, often if not always one of the True Friends.) Now that she thinks about it, Dreamy Boy is sooooo much cuter than the godlike quarterback she dated for about thirty seconds. Luckily for Doormat, Dreamy's just cuckoo for her Cocoa Puffs.
Then it's time for hugs, smoochies, and a vicious takedown of Glittery that utilizes all of Doormat and the True Friends' arcane skill set. That taken care of, everyone rides off into graduation and the glow of acquired self-respect and Glittery's humiliation. The End.
I can't take it any more.
I realize that popularity is a preoccupation bordering on obsession with many teenagers. I understand that in realistic YA fiction, this storyline is a trope bordering on a subgenre. I'm just sayin', I'm over it. No more. Please, God, no more.
I want to scream at Doormat. "For Chrissake, have some self-respect." I want to kick the True Friends for taking her back after she dumped them like the cafeteria's tuna-fish sandwich. I want to decapitate the Dreamy Boy who may actually have less self-respect than Doormat. Barring decapitation, I want him just once to say, "Yeah, I did like you, but now I'm snogging this smart, confident girl over here who has never once felt the need to dress up like an ear of corn and swim in a vat of tomato sauce at the senior prom. Buh-bye!"
The only one I have no loathing for is Glittery LaBeautiful. Because sociopath she may be, but by God, she owns it.
There are excellent books with this storyline. But all too often it's the same tired stuff masquerading as wacky hijinx and deeply felt lessons on self-respect, and I'm done. I'll look at the covers, I'll shelve the books, and I'll put them on display when called for. But as the Internet is my witness, I'm never reading one of them again.
This was going to be a tweet. Then it evolved into a Facebook status update (more characters, dontcha know.) Then, as I thought about it, I realized that my rage was too huge to contain in anything less than a full blog post. If you've made it this far, I commend you. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to weed my TBR list.