Eleven year old Sam’s story begins in the first book, The New Kid: Unpopular Me, when he moves from Adelaide to Canberra.
Being the new kid at school is something lots of readers will relate to. All Sam wants to do is make a few friends while he’s trying to adapt to a new life.
He’s an only child, bad at reading and forced to go to special classes to improve his skills. He is befriended by Gary, whom nobody likes or talks to for unspoken reasons.
Sam is lonely. He goes to great lengths to make friends. He allows one girl’s young sister to practice hairdressing on him. You can guess how that ends.
Then there’s the constant badgering from Johnny Wilson the class bully, and his band of followers.
His life is a series of misadventures and mishaps. A disaster in fact, as it includes his mother’s insistence that she shop with him for underpants. All that’s left to Sam is to take measures to become popular.
But it takes the disaster at the school play to turn things around and make Sam and Gary the most popular kids at school.
The sequel, The New Kid: Very Popular Me sees Sam after turning disaster into triumph on stage. Now he has what he wants – popularity. Gary too!
A new baby is coming. Perhaps now his helicopter mum will have something else to focus on. Meanwhile, he is forced into a cleaning frenzy of the garage, while a marble craze is underway at school. Sam discovers Aunt Mable’s jar of marbles with a very special one in it. This increases his popularity, and added to that, Amy from the coolest group of girls, proclaims him her boyfriend. Could things get better?
But all these things suddenly reverse in a series of events that will keep readers laughing out loud and that continue will to intervene, and bring Sam to his unpopular state once again.
Sam’s lack of friends forces him to make more stupid decisions. His former friendless friend Gary has installed a pool and has all the friends he needs. He now ignores Sam. Amy has broken off with him. Johnny Wilson is forcing him to cheat for him in his tests, and magpies keep attacking him. And, he has lost his special marble. Will his world ever stop spinning out of control?
Matthew Martin’s hilarious and quirky illustrations spark up the text which really stands up well alone, but they do add quite a bit of visual stimulation. At all times it seems an unending catastrophe but its ending is a delight when everything comes full circle in an interesting and unexpected way.
Title: The New Kid: Very Popular Me
Author: James O’Loghlin
Illustrator: Matthew Martin
Publisher: Pan Macmillan, $9.99
Publication Date: June 2019
For ages: 9+
Type: Middle Grade Fiction