Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Review: The Summer I Became A Nerd By Leah Rae Miller

This book has been on my TBR for a long time. So long, in fact, that when I picked up my Kindle and was ready to buy it, I discovered that I already did that years ago. Ah, memory. ;)

I've always been a geek. Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Dungeons and Dragons, Harry Potter, video games... It's pretty much been my bread and butter my whole life. I was not one of the popular people but, thanks largely to my disabilities, I never had the desire to be one of them. Nor did I live under the illusion that was possible.

Do I sound bitter? Let me assure you it is not for myself--I'm 34 and outside of YA fiction high school is way, way in my rear view mirror--but rather for the protagonist of this story. The fact that there are girls out there who feel as she does truly breaks my heart.

(Summary from GoodReads)
On the outside, seventeen-year-old Madelyne Summers looks like your typical blond cheerleader—perky, popular, and dating the star quarterback. But inside, Maddie spends more time agonizing over what will happen in the next issue of her favorite comic book than planning pep rallies with her squad. That she’s a nerd hiding in a popular girl's body isn’t just unknown, it's anti-known. And she needs to keep it that way.

Summer is the only time Maddie lets her real self out to play, but when she slips up and the adorkable guy behind the local comic shop’s counter uncovers her secret, she’s busted. Before she can shake a pom-pom, Maddie’s whisked into Logan’s world of comic conventions, live-action role-playing, and first-person-shooter video games. And she loves it. But the more she denies who she really is, the deeper her lies become…and the more she risks losing Logan forever.
There were some things I really liked about this book, and some things that totally drove me up the wall. At the center of this set of mixed opinions was our protagonist, Maddie. I didn't think she was a terrible person, but as I said in my intro, I couldn't relate to her extreme desperation to be popular, and I think that created a divide between her and I.

There wasn't actually a lot of external conflict that related to the core popularity struggle. The vast majority of Maddie's fears, aside from being laughed at in the prologue and one line of dialogue by a single character near the end, are self inflicted. In fact, I found that with a lot of Maddie's problems, which made it difficult for me to empathize with her.

She won't tell people she doesn't like a popular country singer. She hides her geeky interests to a spy-comedy level of ridiculousness. She has crafted a persona and image for herself, picking people and controlling everything down to two CDs strategically placed in her backseat to match what her friends are listening to.

I'm sorry, but I just couldn't fully believe it. It actually made me feel sorry for the people she has been lying to / using / deceiving rather than making me feel sympathy for her plight.

And yet, despite how hard I'm coming down on this, I did enjoy the book. I think it holds a very important message about the value of being true to yourself and the cost when someone is too afraid to do that.

I liked Terra (Maddie's best friend) and felt bad that Maddie didn't have enough faith in their friendship to confide in her. Logan was all right. A bit too quick to switch his attitude, though Maddie kinda deserved that considering how fake she could be. Unfortunately, he didn't have a lot of real presence on the page and despite all the fabulous geeky references and settings we get to explore, his character never really did anything that made him stand out. My favorite character was Dan. He was hilarious, honest and a loyal friend.

Basically, this novel was like a picture just slightly out of focus. What was here was an enjoyable read, but I wanted to dig deeper into this situation. I wanted to understand why Maddie continued to feel her fears were justified. I wanted to get to know the other characters--not just have her tell me how they were. A light, breezy and definitely geeky summer romance, The Summer I Became A Nerd is literary cotton candy. It's sweet, airy and you'll enjoy it while it lasts, but upon looking back you will wonder if you actually ate anything. As with cotton candy, that doesn't mean it should be avoided. Rather, a potential reader just needs to know what they are getting into when they pick this book up.


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