Deep Down Popular by Phoebe Stone

A few of my girls read Deep Down Popular by Phoebe Stone earlier in the school year and recommended that I read it. It was in the Scholastic book clubs all year and usually got an order or two because the cover is intriguing (and fun). Who doesn’t love crazy socks? I finally got around to reading this over the weekend, and I have to admit I abandoned it. In fact, I abandoned it about 25 pages from the end. I just did not love it.

The book is well-written and the plot it cute. My first problem was that for the first 10 pages I had no idea if I was reading a historical or realistic fiction novel. The story is set in a small town in Virginia, and maybe it’s just that I have no experience with that. But I really had no idea if the story was taking place 50 years ago or yesterday. I think that will turn a lot of kids off.

Second, the book seemed very unrealistic. If it was historical fiction I might have cut it some slack. However, it is supposed to be taking place in the recent past/now and too many things made me say, “Huh?!” For example, at one point the main character decides to leave school at lunch. Now, there are plenty of smaller schools around here that do allow elementary students to go home at lunch, as long as they have a permission slip on file. However, Jessie Lou just up and goes home without telling anyone! Then, she gets back late after lunch and no one notices! In this day and age, I don’t care how small the town is- schools are responsible for students and Jessie would get quite a talking to when she got back to class. But not in the book. Incidents like that kept bothering me throughout the book.

The story is cute, but that’s really all I can say about it. I wasn’t dying to know what happened at the end and couldn’t even force myself to finish it. It just seemed very “blah” to me. I wouldn’t tell my students not to read it, as it is well-written. I just don’t see myself booktalking or recommending it to them.


11 Responses

  1. I don’t know, in elementary school I’d skip out of lunch without permission and go to a friend’s house who lived down the street, and I lived in the Chicago suburbs. The only time I got in trouble was the time my dad brought me the lunch I’d forgotten, and they couldn’t find me in the cafeteria.

    But then, I guess that was almost 20 years ago. Oh my god, my elementary school days would be considered “historical fiction”. I’m going to go cry now. 😉

  2. You mentioned that several of your girls recommended it to you so you read iDeep Down Popular. My daughter never reads and she LOVED the book so I had to read it. too I thought it was charming. Still you have to think maybe Jessie Lou got a pass at the chapter break. Sometimes authors don’t give every little logistical detail and I always see that break as a time when characters do stuff authors don’t feel the need to mention. She did indicate that the teacher didn’t say anything when Jessie Lou came back which of course shows that the teacher is aware of what Jessie Lou is feeling and doing…The teacher is very in-tune with Jessie Lou, I thought. Anyway I am so pleased my daughter read the book and loved it. So if kids love it, is there anything to complain about?

  3. Darren-

    I am thrilled your daughter loved it. I just wasn’t as charmed, for some reason. I don’t think it is a bad book, just not for me. And I have a hard time booktalking books I am not passionate about. 🙂

  4. Looks like we thought the same of this book. I almost abandoned it many times, but ended up reading until the end. I posted last weekend on my site about it: It was funny because we were both bothered by how unrealistic it was for her to be going home for lunch on a whim!

  5. Big difference of opinion here — I wrote this review and gave it 5 stars in LibraryThing…”So peacefully and simply fine that when I read the last page I started paging back through to connect with Jessie Lou and Conrad and Quentin again and then just started it all over. Certainly in the top five on my list for this year’s Newbery Award.”

  6. Just to balance out the book aimed at girls…I was on vacation last week, and our condo had a mini-library. Being without books, I took full advantage of it; the first book I read was okay, but I really enjoyed the second one, which turned out when I read the back cover to have been reviewed as a YA book. It’s called House of the Scorpion, and it’s a sci-fi ish book about a cloned boy growing up in a future where the border between the US and Mexico has become a region of opium kingdoms worked by brainwashed slaves. I didn’t see any mention of it in a quick search of your blog, though it may have been discussed in one of the others you read…

  7. I’m reading House of the Scorpion right now. I just started, but I think I will fly through it because I am already hooked.

    As for the positive comments on Deep Down Popular, it is good to see that some people have enjoyed it. Hopefully someone in my class will enjoy it much more than I did so that it isn’t a waste of money for my classroom library:). I did like Jessie’s personality, I just didn’t like how unrealistic some sections of the book were and how the writing was repetitive in parts.

  8. i really love your book deep down popular i wish that book was my life.
    jesse lou was just a girl with nothing in her life that could make her happy and now when she met conner her life turned around.
    i would love this book to turn into a movie and im 11 and i want to be in the movie as jessie lou ive been wanting to be an actress forever and people say im good at it this is the only movie i will ever want to be in and well i love this book it almost made me cry well if you can consider this idea please give me an e-mail at

  9. i read the book, and alot of kids go home for lunch, im not sure if they have to sign out in the office or something… in my opinion this book is pretty awesome, and moving, and was sort of dying to know what happened at the end. So, i loved the book, and i think they should make a movie about it, unless they already did 😀

    • I think the book should be make into a movie too. 3rd graders don’t normally find things moving, but when I was in 3rd grade i found it so sweet and beautiful it brought me to tears. I still love this book. 🙂

  10. I was a kid and I love this book. I’m in 7th grade now and I still love it. When I read in in 3rd grade I loved it too. So you are very wrong about kids not liking it. Besides, it’s that timelessness and the bittersweet moments that make this book so beautiful. And I will tell you what happens. They go to the school dance and Conrad is popular again so all the other girls want to dance with him. Jessie thinks he doesn’t want to be her friend now that he is popular, but then he comes up and asks her to dance. And it’s perfect. So you are very wrong. And I still remember that from 4 years ago.

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