Monday, November 23, 2009

Review: Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern

Found via: BBYA 2010 nominations and the Amelia Bloomer project

After last week's series of depressing books, I was desperate for something upbeat and happy. I teased this one back on Tuesday, and let me assure you the whole book totally lives up to the promise of the premise.

Jessie has been best friends with Bizza and Char forever. She has also been crushing on her cool punk older brother's friend Van for years. As the trio of girls enter their sophomore year, and her brother and the dreamy Van enter their senior year and prepare for college, Jessie feels somewhat torn. On the one hand, she wants nothing about her life to change - she wants her brother, with his scraggly mohawk and all, to stay home; she wants Bizza and Char and herself to have the same sort of silly sleepovers they had in middle school; she wants to keep sewing her cute, simple skirts out of novelty themed fabric. On the other, lots of things are changing, and she wonders if she should be as well - maybe her hair is too brown and boring, maybe if she started dressing in Hot Topic punk gear like Bizza and Char, Van would start to like her.

When Bizza betrays Jessie, Jessie feels it's time to find herself a new set of friends. After sitting with Dottie, one of the school's biggest nerds, in study hall, Jessie begins to wonder about her own place in the social hierarchy of high school. If she's friends with the nerdy Dottie, does that mean she's a nerd, too? And what does it mean that the super-nerdy Henry keeps showing up in her dreams? And how on Earth can she find Dungeons & Dragons fun while still maintaining a shred of "cool cred?"

First of all, anyone who's ever played D&D, or a similar role playing game, is going to find this book hilarious. During Jessie's first D&D session, I was immediately transported back to college - it takes the handful of kids over half an hour to decide what pizzas to get and then come up with a super complicated order. That was totally me and my friends back in the day - except I really was the only woman playing, while Jessie has Dottie to help her out. Also, we totally held true to the maxim that while table top role players may be nerds and geeks, at least we didin't LARP.

There are lots of great relationships in this book. Jessie and her brother were sweet and awesome. I loved Jessie's hesitation, then acceptance, of the various "nerds" and "geeks" around her, and embracing of her own nerdiness. And this is a book with some great parents present (I love Jessie's dad). Even the not-so-positive relationships were written well and felt totally authentic - I definitely knew a Bizza in high school, and Jessie's heartache over Van was totally palpable.

This is definitely one of the funnest books I've read in awhile - I recommend it for geeks everywhere!

For more geek-love, check out Lynn & Cindy's review of Geektastic over at Bookends (and/or check out my review from back in August)
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