Friday, 31 August 2012

"Into the Wild Nerd Yonder" by Julie Halpern

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?

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder was my first Julie Halpern book, but I can definitely say it won't be my last. It's about Jessie Sloan, a high school sophomore who gets fed up with her fake friends and decides to find some new ones. The author got inside Jessie's head really well, making her voice very realistic. Jessie is probably one of my all-time favourite narrators; she's funny, unique, wholly likable and good. She wanted to well at school and have friends she could trust and who liked her for who she was. Her brother Barrett (another great character, and I loved their sibling dynamic, it was so refreshing) was into the whole punk scene (complete with orange mohawk) but she didn't get into that, preferring instead to do her own thing, which included being a mathematics geek and designing/sewing her own skirts (which sounded awesome, I must say). When her best friends Bizza and Char become obsessed with Barrett's friends (including Jessie's long-term crush Van), and Bizza knowingly hooks up with Van, Jessie ditches them (admittedly after a bit of dithering and floundering) in favour of the "nerd" crowd, who play Dungeons and Dragons. This book provided a good insight into the game, which I didn't know a lot about before, and showed Jessie that it was okay not to be seen as "cool". (Her father, friend Polly, and even her brother had played it at least once before). At the same time, Barrett sort of parallels Jessie's change of social scene by leaving his band, the Crudhoppers, and beginning to date the Homecoming Queen, Chloe Romano, who unexpectedly turns out to be very intelligent and a feminist. Jessie finds romance of her own with Henry, a very sweet boy (with too-short trousers and very white gym shoes) who she plays D&D with.
Overall, this book was brilliant! I will definitely be re-reading this one at some point in the future.

Rating: A+

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