Katy Moran, the author of Dangerous to Know and the medieval thrillers Bloodline, Bloodline Rising and Spirit Hunter, has reviewed Popular on her blog.
"Meredith Harper rules Mount Olivet Grammar School in Belfast with beauty, charm and despotic power, aided by a small tribe of It-girls all equally as beautiful (well nearly) and just as bitchy. Cameron, six feet tall and gorgeous, is part of the clique now that he has conquered an addiction to muffins and lost the puppy fat. Obviously, it all gets complicated, but not in the way you might think. This is a very, very entertaining look at what it takes to be part of the in-crowd, especially if you’re a socialite in Northern Ireland (being featured in Ulster Tatler, for one: “Inside the magazine, Imogen was posing on the Giant’s Causeway in a ball gown, with Anastasia Montmorency beside her. They had both gone for brooding, with the waves crashing over the rocks behind them (…) in a fabulously poetic way.”). It’s an extremely funny book – I laughed a lot and kept reading bits out loud to people, which must have been very annoying but I couldn’t help myself.
Popular has the convincing weight of authenticity – at first, I thought Meredith’s friend Kerry was a caricature, but a few chapters in I started to suspect that the author knows someone exactly like her, so I just went along for the ride. Russell does mercilessly laugh at his characters quite a bit, but he chooses his targets carefully. There’s nothing funny about Meredith Harper. There are serious issues, too, which I won’t go into lest I spoil the plot for you. It’s all very well dealt with, though: nothing is clear cut or black and white, just like life. My one complaint – a small one – is that the only genuinely nice characters are boys. The girls are all pretty morally bankrupt to a greater or lesser extent, which seems a bit unfair (on the boys – why can’t they be amusingly wicked, too, instead of just confused? It looks like so much fun.) This didn’t occur to me till I’d finished the book, and didn’t spoil my enjoyment of it. There’s more to come in this series and I’ll definitely be looking out for the next serving of evil glamour."