Into the Wild Nerd Yonder
By Julie Halpern
Published 2009 by Feiwel & Friends
My second foray into reading an author in preparation for ALA's Coffee Klatch. Halpern tells the story of Jessie, a smart girl with a talent and love for sewing. It's just before her sophomore year of high school and she discovers her two best friends have turned into psuedo-punks, something Jessie just can't get behind. Add to that her best friend's questionably slutty behavior and Jessie finds herself entering her sophomore year without a group of friends to rely on. Enter the "weird" girl from her study hall. Soon, Jessie is thrown into the world of Dungeons & Dragons. But is Jessie ready to be a fully fledged social outcast?
Another successful read. Jessie is a delightful character. She is exactly like I imagine myself to have been in high school (except I don't know how to sew) - she's sarcastic and funny and insecure and hyper-aware of what other people think of her (though, who isn't in high school?). She has a very strong voice that is easy to relate to and a breeze to listen to. However, my absolute favorite thing about this book is Jessie's relationship with her brother. They are friends. They actually like each other. To me, this is a revelation in a young adult novel. Most siblings in teen books exist only to antagonize each other. And while that sort of relationship is not uncommon in real life, the other side of the spectrum also exists. I feel like it's very unusual for young adult novels to show siblings who actually support and believe in each other, especially siblings of the opposite sex. So Halpern's depiction of Jessie and Barrett's relationship is refreshing and enjoyable. Everything about this book rings true to adolescence - the trickiness of navigating high school society and the difficulty of trying to find your own place in it. I loved the hint of romance and the real struggles Jessie has as she tries to decide if she's okay being known as a nerd. Wonderfully realistic and funny to boot.