Airhead is the first in Meg Cabot's young adult "Airhead trilogy" and features Emerson Watts, Em for short, the 16-year-old daughter of a professor. As the daughter of an intellectual professor, Em is also a feminist and a protestor of pop-culture.
Em and her 14-year-old sister Frida couldn't be more different. Em spends time with her best friend Christopher making fun of the popular kids, pop culture, and teen idols, while Frida soaks it all up. She reads fashion magazines and drools over celebrities. So, when Stark Megastore, "featuring three stories of CDs, DVDs, video games, electronics, and books," offers a grand opening near their apartment in New York City, Frida begs to go because she knows her celebrity crush, British singer Gabriel Luna, will be there, and Em is forced to chaperon her. Supermodel Nikki Howard will also be at the grand opening because she sometimes dates Brandon Stark, heir to the Stark Megastore fortune.
Accompanied by Christopher, both Em and Frida attend the event, which is also being protested by the E.L.F., the Environmental Liberation Front, since the Stark Megastore had ousted Mama's Fruit and Vegetable Stand, which stood in the middle of the empty lot upon which the company had built the new store. At one point, protestors shoot a paintball gun at a plasma TV screen being suspended by wires from the ceiling. The wires begin to snap, and Frida, who is asking Nikki for an autograph, is standing right under the TV. Em successfully pushes her sister to safety but not in time to save herself. Th TV comes "crashing down" on Em, who goes unconscious just at the exact time that Nikki faints as well.
Em spends a month in the hospital and tries to remember what happened. When she is kidnapped by both Lulu Collins, Nikki's roommate, and Brandon Stark, Nikki's sometimes boyfriend, Em realizes that her own mind is in Nikki's body. Em traces back the events and learns that she died during the accident at the same time Nikki had a brain aneurysm. She also finds out her parents had agreed to performing the brain transplant offered by Stark Industries, in an effort to save Em. However, Em is given Nikki's body on the condition that she not break Nikki's modeling contract upon penalty of her parents facing possible criminal charges and being fined for $2 million.
Em finds herself caught up in a love triangle with Brandon Stark and Gabriel Luna but misses Christopher. She enrolls in her old school just to keep some of her old life and try to reach out to Christopher. She is also overwhelmed by the strenuous supermodel lifestyle, realizing she had misjudged it, and saddened to learn Nikki was never a true friend to Lulu. The novel ends with Em bringing Lulu home for dinner to meet her family.
Airhead by Meg Cabot follows the life of 16 year old Emerson Watts. Emerson, or Em, lives a normal life. She has a best friend named Christopher, a sister named Frida, who is pop culture obsessed. Em and Christopher take Frida to see a British musician named Gabriel Luna at a store opening. Many celebrities gather there, including model Nikki Howard. However, protesters destroy the opening which causes a giant TV screen to crush Em. When Em wakes up, she is shocked to find that she is "dead". In fact, her brain has been transplanted into Nikki's body, who fainted at the event. Em is now fully responsible for Nikki's day to day schedule. Drama erupts when she even gets into a love triangle between Gabriel Luna and former Nikki's ex. Em becomes friends with Lulu, who Nikki wasn't the nicest to. Em experiences the hardships of her new lifestyle, and finds herself missing Christopher and her old life. The story continues in the next two books in this teen trilogy.