I must admit that Into the Wild Nerd Yonder is NOT the first Julie Halpern book I have owned. It IS the first I’ve read. I won the audiobook version of Get Well Soon in a blog contest sometime last year, but as flaky as I am about listening to things (VERY), I decided to give it to my sister for Christmas. This is she of the 45-minute per way commute. And she was very happy to receive it, so I felt good about that decision. But now that I’ve finally read Ms. Halpern, I am very envious of my sister. I want the book back! But I shall cope, and get a hard copy from the library.
All that to say: this book was so cute and satisfying and likeable that I want to read more by the same author. But before we get really deep into gushing, let’s see a synopsis.
It’s Jessie’s sophomore year of high school. A self-professed “mathlete,” 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?
First, before I get into the book itself, I just want to say that it came along at a timely moment. I’ve been wondering for a while now how far gone I am into nerd-dom. I mean, I read a lot. I have a book blog. I play Civilization 4 (a computer game). I’ve started reading a graphic novel series. I am a film geek. I go to Neil Gaiman signings. Oh? And I spent a LOT of time in school. Maybe not too much on the official scale of nerdiness, but it’s more than my friends. I’ve felt comforted and supported by the online community (you guys are GREAT!, I’m not even kidding), but a full trip into nerd status has only seemed one CON trip away.
And then I read a book like this one, and I’m reminded that your ‘classification’ doesn’t matter as long as you gather quality people around yourself and grow as a person. Sometimes those of us who stick out just a bit are the leading lights and spur those around us on to more and better things.
BUT…the book! I will admit that I liked the ‘blurb,’ but what really drew me to Into the Wild Nerd Yonder were the title and the exquisite cover art. It struck just the right notes for me – funny, unique, and vibrant (and the actual boards of the book are PINK and PURPLE – they do my girly soul proud!). Of course what really matters is what’s inside those covers. And thankfully the story matched the beauty outside.
Jessie is figuring out who she is, and why her friends are her friends. Her journey is very real – down to the bad boy that she knows she shouldn’t like, but does anyway. Feelings of dissociation, wanting to please people, confusion about the ‘why’s’ of life – they all strike true notes for a girl in her sophomore year of high school. The secondary characters are well-drawn and I found myself wishing for more of their stories – maybe a sequel, Ms. Halpern? Though this one is pretty perfect on its own.
Recommended for: fans of realistic YA fiction, coming-of-age, D&D, former, current and future nerds, and healthy family relationships (yes, there are some in YA lit).