Saturday, December 11, 2010

Book Review: Into the Wild Nerd Yonder

This book has turned out to be one of my favorite books of the year, totally up my alley, so much so that I read most of it with a headache and didn't regret that move in the slightest.

Yes those are 20 sided dice on the cover and I suppose that's supposed to be the dress sewn for LARPing, see why this is just up my alley?

Summary: Jess will freely admit that she's a nerd and would rather listen to audio-books while sewing her newest skirt than hanging out with her former BFFs turned wanna-be punks. So instead of moping around Jess starts to pay more attention to the people around her, see whose friendly, and debate whether being a D&D gamer is even nerdier than being a mathlete.

The Good: Whenever I read a post about characters and covers and "connecting with the auidence" I would roll my eyes and go "guys, I've never found a character whose like me, it's all it's cracked up to be." So it was a huge shock to realize that Jess thinks almost exactly the way I do. This isn't a girl whose going to stand by her friends as they use her or go out with a bad boy when it's clear he's no good, she goes screw it, I'm off to make friends with the band kids! The way the various teenagers were portrayed really rang true to my experiences as well; from the incestuous family atmosphere of the band kids was a dead ringer for my cosplay friends, to some kids being much more philosophical than they would first appear, to the rather blase attitude towards sex most of the characters have (neither being grossed out by the idea or making a rather big deal out of it), finally it was a bunch of high school kids who actually thought the way that, well, nerdy high school kids do.
The Bad: I thought that Van's ending wasn't quite right, I was expecting a bit more fire and bluster from him, and the romance with Henry also felt a bit flat to me. For Henry and Jess it seems like it was crush at first sight and then that it just developed very quickly and smoothly, just a bit too quickly and too smoothly than how it usually goes. Neither were very big but they did nag at me a bit as well as the resolution with Jess's original friends. I wasn't sure if I wanted her to be friends with them again or to stay seperated but actually that seems a lot like real life as well (on the one hand they were jerks but on the other hand they weren't jerks all the time for years and years). One last thing is that the book feels more like a slice-of-life anime or tv show than a plot centered book which is what dominates the YA market (heck, the closet thing you get to slice-of-life are memoirs and those are non-fiction) so I can see a lot of people expecting more drama out of the book and being disappointed when it doesn't come.

Something I'll be adding in here, ITWNY reminded me of a few other series and I'll try to do this in the future as well.
Genshiken: Slice-of-life (pretty accurate to life I'm told) look at what a Japanese anime club is like, same sort of laid back atmosphere but replace D&D fights with the frequent new fanzine quests.
Weregeek: Very similar to ITWNY, guy becomes nerd, guy gets involved in all sorts of awesome tabletop and LARP games (and since this one is a comic the games become mini arcs and are much more interesting than just reading about them).