Here's the first thing you need to know about Vine star Lele Pons' debut young adult novel: the main character is also named Lele Pons, and she's also an Internet superstar. But she's not the real Lele Pons. Not exactly. It's a fictional memoir, if you will, about growing up and learning who you are in the age of Instagram, Vine, and Snapchat.
In real life, Lele Pons is the most-watched person on Vine. With over 10 million followers, this native Venezuelan is one of the most powerful, most revered voices on social media. But in Surviving High School, Lele Pons is a total outcast in her Miami high school. When she suddenly catapults to Internet superstardom, she transforms from bullied loner into Queen Bee. But of course, popularity comes at a cost — and Lele has to figure out how to navigate the drama, the boys, and the Regina Georges of the world without sacrificing her identity, her grades, her family, or her dreams.
Take a peek at the opening line:
The first thing you need to know about me is that I wasn't always the gorgeous, sexy, cool, breeze blonde you know today. I know, it's shocking. The truth is, it wasn't so long ago that I was an awkward outcast wearing braces and last season's clothes two sizes too big. "No!" I can hear you disagreeing. "Lele has always been perfect." Well, you're right, I have always been perfect, but that's another story for another time. Let me take you back to the dark days so you can see that once upon a time my struggle was deep and my struggle was real."
Surviving High School explores the struggles of being a teenager in an era when anything and everything can (and probably will) make it on the Vine.
Behind the silliness, however, Surviving High School also deals with a very real, very serious issue: bullying.
"I was a victim of bullying, so it's a topic that I feel comes easily for me to speak about," Lele Pons tells Bustle. "I completely understand the emotions that one can go through when you feel like the world is against you, and [you] immerse yourself in an outlet where you can feel safe to be yourself."
Pons, like the character in her novel, found her outlet online. These days, she's learned to laugh off the critics and embrace the haters, and — if her social media presence is any indication — she's grown comfortable in her own skin. Now, she wants her followers and her readers to know that those awkward high school years won't last forever.
"Whatever drama you're currently going through or will go through, it's not the end of the world," she says. "Those challenges and obstacles will help you grow into a strong adult."