Sunday, January 3, 2010
Into the Wild Nerd Yonder: intelligent, wise, magical, and strong
Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern is one of those books that I wish had been around when I was in high school. It's centered on Jessie, an average (not in a bad way!) sophomore who finds her circle of friends changing. Her two BFF's, Bizza and Char, have suddenly gone mall punk. They've developed a minor obsession with Jessie's brother's punk band and are using Jessie rather than being her friends. Bizza even hooks up with Van, the boy she knows Jessie has crushed on for years. Jessie's brother has gone from punk to preppy, even dating a popular girl. Jessie feels a little like she's lost her center, even though she maintains her love of audiobooks and making crazy print skirts. Where's a girl to drift? In this case, it's toward the nerds.
Though she resists their initial advances, Jessie finds herself enjoying the company of a group of Dungeons and Dragons players. Popular they're not, but Jessie finds them refreshingly honest, which is very much what she needs after the way Char and Bizza have treated her. There's even...gasp...a cute boy in the D&D group! It's not that Jessie isn't enjoying her time with her new friends, but she worries about her social standing and what it means for her longtime friendships and crushes if she develops new ones. Is it "once a nerd, always a nerd?"
I know I was prejudiced toward this book because it has a pink cover, but I also picked it up because I'm conversant in Nerd. Even if the cover had been blue, I'd still recommend it. Jessie is smart and funny, but not to the point where it sounds like the author just wants to be the next Joss Whedon. Halpern also does an excellent job of balancing Jessie's feelings about her friends. I saw how badly her friends were treating her, but I didn't want her to be lonely and alienated, either. She also has a really positive relationship with her brother, which warmed my heart. The way Jessie reacts to her changing friendships felt realistic to me. She's defined herself a lot by her friends, but doesn't give up on herself or fall into a pit of despair when she grows apart from them. I'd say this was a winner, but one doesn't really win a game of D&D, so I'll just say it rolled a 20.