School is hard. The itchy uniforms, the exams, the awkward snogging and the acne, all make for a pretty rough few years. But it could be worse: you could go to school with Meredith Harper.
I’m glad I didn’t. There is not a chance I could have slipped past her, aged fifteen, with my backpack sensibly perched on both shoulders and my multi-coloured train-track braces without suffering some hideous put down, and I’m almost certain that she would have made me cry on a regular basis. Meredith is terrifying. She is Regina George on speed, or Blair Waldorf with a hangover. But like all good villainesses, she is also completely impossible to resist.
When Gareth gave me the first draft of Popular, I was in the middle of my university exams and supposed to be reading Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, a grim task that I had already been putting off for months. I told myself that I would quickly read the first chapter of Gareth’s book and then get down to some serious study. That serious study never happened. I was completely gripped, and read the whole thing in one sitting, laughing like a lunatic and compulsively turning the pages. My degree almost certainly suffered, but unfortunately Chaucer didn’t stand a chance in the fight against Meredith and her friends: they kicked him in the crotch, called him a smelly peasant and sent him hobbling back to the fourteenth century.
It’s not every day that one of your friends writes a book. Unless that friend is Gareth, in which case, he will have written a novel, a play, a film, and a short biography of Marie Antoinette before the cocktail hour has struck. This is a man who sauntered off stage during the intermission of the play he was starring in to sit a finals exam at Oxford. While the rest of us sweated and toiled in the library Gareth was quickly dashing off a play about the ancien regime with a gin and tonic in one hand, and while we stayed up all night cramming Shakespeare quotes into our frazzled brains, Gareth wrote Popular.
Popular is hilarious, clever and very naughty, just like its author. I’m only sad that I have to wait until next year for the next one!