Geeking out about Popular Paperbacks
This year’s Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults comes to us in four categories, each with some excellent titles. In the Adventure Seekers department, you’ve already heard all about my enthusiasm for Finnikin of the Rock. From the Forbidden Romance list, I’ve mentioned my love of Anna and the French Kiss. And the Sticks and Stones category’s Thirteen Reasons Why was a heartbreaking read with a message not to ignore the pain of other people (check out Jay Asher’s essay about his first class visit for the book). But I want to talk about the fourth category, Get Your Geek On.
It’s a good time to be a geek (or a nerd or a dork….). Intelligence is prized as strength rather than stigma, and being adept with technology is a potential career boon instead of a weird hobby. Science fiction and fantasy are popular genres for books, television and movies. Even roleplaying games are making regular media appearances. Geeks have become cool and this list is full of cool geeks. Here are some highlights:
Geektastic, edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci, boasts short stories of all kinds of geeks from an exciting array of authors. With 15 stories by 15 authors interspersed with by comics by Hope Larson and Brian Lee O’Malley, there is something for everyone in this collection, and probably several names you’ll recognize. Highlights include a Klingon cosplayer who falls for a Jedi at a convention, a taciturn LARPing hero, a quiz bowl outcast, and a party full of people pretending to be their online roleplaying characters. The illustrations on the book’s cover are Nintendo-style pixel drawings representing the authors. For a fun activity while reading, try to guess who’s who and check your work against the author bios at the end of each story.
The Get Your Geek On list appropriately features more comics, traditionally the province of geeks, than the other popular paperbacks lists. These comics promise adventures of the geekiest kind. Attend an anime convention with Christie in DramaCon where you’ll fall for a mysterious boy, get an inside look at life as a budding comic book writer, try out some new outfits and eat way too much Pocky. Try to prevent Amber from falling for a football bully with video game junkies Matt, Brad and Brian in Sidescrollers. And be sure to avoid evil cats! Watch as Dennis attempts to balance his parents’ dream that he become a gastroenterologist and his obsession with video games in Level Up. Things get really weird when four bossy angels show up to keep his nose to the grindstone. Each of these books have distinct art styles, from manga to video game inspired western cartoon, to simple and modern, making these picks a great sampling of comics as well as geeks.
Literary allusions to the likes of Walt Whitman and Herman Melville, a first person shooter game called Resurrection, a Wikipedia-like website known as the Omnictionary, cartographic copyright traps and a geek on a quest for love make up the key elements of John Green’s Paper Towns. Q is a geek. He’s cautious and calm, used to spending time with his two best friends and admiring Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. After Margo takes Q on a night-long adventure full of revenge pranks and then disappears, he latches onto every clue he can find in the hopes that he can find her. It turns out Margo is secretly a geek, too, who enjoys keeping a secret notebook full of coded crosshatch writing. Q sorts through her collection of vinyl albums and mines the highlighted passages in her copy of Song of Myself for information about her intentions.
This is my favorite John Green novel. I admit bias because Song of Myself is a favorite poem of mine, but I felt like this book was speaking my language, like it was crafted to reach nerds specifically. Each turn of phrase seems designed to be hysterically funny or particularly moving to the nerd in all of us.
For these geeks and more, check out the rest of the Get Your Geek on list, and the other Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults selections. And if geeks are your thing, you should really check out Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, one of this year’s Alex Award winners.
— Erin Daly, currently reading I Am Here! by Ema Toyama