Friday, February 26, 2010

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder: My Life on the Dork Side by Julie Halpern, reviewed by Fegan

Loved the title - definitely one to make teens stop and read the jacket cover at least. Loved the cover - eventually. At first, when the dress on the front didn't match what the main character was sewing, I thought it was another case of someone not bothering to read the book first (don't you hate that?!) It made sense, though, about the time I realized the 'jewels' surrounding it were D&D dice. What can I say, they don't make contacs for turtles!

Jacket description:
It’s Jessie’s sophomore year of high school. A self-professed “mathelete,” she isn’t sure where she belongs. Her two best friends have transformed themselves into punks and one of them is going after her longtime crush. Her beloved older brother will soon leave for college (and in the meantime has shaved his mohawk and started dating . . . the prom princess!) . . .

Things are changing fast. Jessie needs new friends. And her quest is a hilarious tour through high-school clique-dom, with a surprising stop along the way—the Dungeons and Dragons crowd, who out-nerd everyone. Will hanging out with them make her a nerd, too? And could she really be crushing on a guy with too-short pants and too-white gym shoes?

If you go into the wild nerd yonder, can you ever come back?

While the crux of the story is Jessie's struggle with things no longer being 'normal', I found the storyline and characters themselves refreshingly normal. Halpern manages to address the issues and mistakes teens face without filling every moment with angst. Siblings who get along, how refreshing! And, despite what much of today's fiction would have you believe, not that uncommon!

The story line is not a new one: friends drift apart in high school, find new friends, change stereotyped opinions, etc. While in some books the transitions happen so quickly they seem forced and implausible, Into the Wild Nerd Yonder lets Jessie vacillate just long enough to make her decisions wholly realistic without annoying the heck out of the reader. Two flippers up, and glad to see it made the Cybils shortlist for 2009!

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