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Get Your Geek On: The 2011 YA Fiction Nerdies

I am a firm believer that “the geek shall inherit the earth,” and I wear my nerdiness with pride. Thankfully the Nerdy Book Club is on the lookout for young adult fiction meant to entertain the smarty-pants in all of us. I’m sure you are eager to know the inspired winners but first, who is The Nerdy Book Club?

To answer that, Donalyn Miller, A Nerdy Book Club member shares:

The Nerdy Book Club blog began as a place for all of us to share our love for children’s and young adult books and promoting reading. Many of the Nerdy Book Club members are librarians and teachers who write blogs or articles elsewhere, but needed a place to […] share why reading matters so much to them.

The winners for the 2011 YA Fiction Nerdies are…

  • The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth
  • A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
  • Shine by Lauren Myracle
  • Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner has been on readers’ radar since fall, earning it a YALSA Reader’s Choice Nomination. Diane, a young adult librarian in Dayton, Ohio, says, “This is a funny, quirky book—it begins with Nick having a fever that causes him to hallucinate and climb the town water tower while wearing his boxer shorts. It’s a smart book, too, using both the sayings of Yoda to define the themes, like how much of our life is actually in our control.”  Hub blogger Sarah Wethern, in her post “New authors, new books! A reader’s dream come true!” reiterates that the sarcastic humor and strong characters make this a must read.

I appreciate that all the nerds used their powers for good and not evil. In her review of Shine by Lauren Myracle, Kate Pickett reveals Cat’s character as “multifaceted, strong but scared, quiet but learning to speak her mind, and determined to make a difference but afraid of standing out.” Cat’s determination to solve the crime committed against Patrick underscores her bigger quest to reveal that her small town of Black Creek suffers from prejudice at a dangerous level. Watching Cat discover that her local library doesn’t have all the answers is heartbreakingly necessary.

Divergent by Veronica Roth is so popular that its sequel, Insurgent (due out May 1st, 2012), captured 39% of the votes among readers asked “Which 2012 sequel or series installment are you most excited about?” in a recent Monday Poll. Beka, an English literature major, was so captivated by Divergent that she called me while on vacation to tell me:

What I liked the most was the subtext of fighting to be who you truly are and not what you were raised to be. Tris was raised Abnegation, she was forced to never think of herself before others. She struggled so much and she never felt that she was ever good enough to live up to her family’s wishes. By becoming a Dauntless and she began to think of herself. She started to realize what she wanted. She learned that she couldn’t be just one thing. She couldn’t be just fearless or just truthful, selfless, peaceful, or wise. She was a Divergent, a combination of all characteristics. To be truthful all the time took bravery. To be selfless was to be wise and at peace. To be selfless was to be fearless. They are all the same.  I also loved the Simulation Room where the new members were made to hallucinate their deepest fears and face them. Not defeat them, but face them.

After touting all the book’s virtues, she then asked if our library owned Divergent, which she followed by demanding to know why on earth not and what exactly I was waiting for. Now that’s a level of fandom I can really get behind.

If you loved The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and you still need convincing to read A Monster Calls, check out Hub blogger Amanda Margis’s post about it. Personally I was impressed that she was able to pull out a favorite quote; short of photocopying the whole book I really don’t know how I would narrow it down. The relationship between Connor and the Monster is fascinating; I loved how they both needed and hated each other alternately. Something about the way the Monster seems to tolerate Connor’s insolent moments is very endearing. As Amanda Margis promised in an earlier post, Coming Distractions, “prepare yourselves to have your emotional being ripped up, jumbled around and then made whole again. As all good books do. This book trailer may be in German but that does not stop it from being awesome.”

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray features a fabulous character named Adina Greenberg, Miss New Hampshire, who struggles with being both drop-dead gorgeous and a total brainiac. I knew I was in for a treat when I read that Adina’s platform for the beauty pageant was Identifying Misogyny in American Culture. In this week’s Monday Poll, readers can vote for Adina or four other nerds in YA lit. Hub blogger Ariel Cummins wrote in her post about the book that it is “one of my favorite novels of the past year. Funny, feminist in the least preachy way possible, and surprisingly touching, Beauty Queens is a can’t miss book.” The humor was off the chart; I especially enjoyed the footnote stating, “Really, being a librarian is a much more dangerous job than you realize.”

If I can learn something new about the world and myself every time I read these great nerdy books, I could attain a level of nerdiness to really be proud of. The only bad thing about this list would be if I had to pick a favorite; each novel has different strengths and different characters to love. To compare them and pick a winner, now that really wouldn’t be smart.

— Laura C. Perenic is reading Black Rabbit Summer by Kevin Brooks, the author of YALSA’s 2012 Quick Picks Nomination, iBoy.

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Laura Perenic