Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern

Jess loves audiobooks, sewing skirts, and the first day of school. She even gets along with her family, including Barrett, her rock-god older brother. She is, in short, a nerd, and feels immediate dread when she starts to grow apart from her two best friends, Bizza and Char, who underwent a punk makeover to fit in with Barrett’s band. After Bizza goes after Jess’ longtime crush and winds up with an STD, Jess ends the friendship. Karma, like Bizza, can be a bitch. With no clique to hang out with, Jess is lulled into the clutches of the Dungeons & Dragons crowd—and finds herself falling for one of them!


Genre: contemporary; humor

Rating: 4.5/5

Note: 2 of Read-a-Thon

Let me get this out of the way. I'm using the cover art from the hardcover version of the book because the paperback cover is hideous. If I hadn't seen the hardcover version first I never would have picked up the book, even with the cute title. I think it's the hideous mustard green background and the fact that they picked tacky clothing to focus on rather than what the book is really about. This cover is perfect. The D&D die with the peasant dress. Dorky and cute at the same time, exactly what the book is aiming for. Go to Amazon to see the paperback cover in all of what I consider its hideous glory.

I liked Jessie. She's a nice girl who was content to trail after her more popular friends. She's smart and funny and gets along with people in her school, just doesn't stand out. The only thing you really wonder about is how she put up with Bizza as long as she did. Yet even that part is done believably. We've all had friends that we were close to then just drifted from when our lives changed. This leaves Jessie trying to figure out what her place in the social scene is. Halpern does a great job of introducing a character that seems like a walking cliche, who then suddenly changes or shows different facets. Dottie, who Jessie initially considers weird, is a great example as she's revealed to be smart, confident, funny, and has a boyfriend. Bizza and Char, the two girls who Jessie initally considered superior to her growing up, are shown to be posers, shallow, and are left without boyfriends by the end. And even there is a twist as there may be more to Bizza than Jessie's anger gives her credit for. And Jessie is no angel either. When she finally has enough of her user best friend, she has all the cattiness that teenage girls have when hurt. Jessie also is guilty of judging social groups, something she eventually gets over.

Jessie and Barrett's sibling relationship is also cute as they get along without it being sappy and you understand Jessie's struggle with her brother leaving for college and morphing into an adult. There is plenty of swearing and questionable subject matter discussed, but it's the same talk I hear in the hallways at any high school. The book more focused on how people are often judged by their social standing, when in reality with a few changes anyone could belong to any group.

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