Jessie, the protagonist of Julie Halpern's Into the Wild Nerd Yonder, has a dilemma. She's had two best friends, Bizza and Char, since first grade, and she's pretty much gone along with whatever trendy thing--starting in a band, writing a soap opera, or becoming punk groupies--they wanted to get into. But more and more, Jessie realizes that there are things she likes to do for herself, like make cool skirts, or kick ass at calculus. She's afraid that these things might get her the label of "nerd," though, so she keeps pretty quiet about her actual personality until Bizza finally crosses the line with the guy that Jessie's had a crush on for years. Never mind that the guy turns out to be a total jerk, Jessie finally has an excuse to branch out. After hanging some with the band geeks, she realizes that she might have more in common with the D&D playing nerds than she is entirely comfortable with. Will Jessie have the courage to make new connections with people she actually likes, even though it might get her the "nerd" label? Of course she will.
I've spent the time since I finished this book trying to figure out why I didn't love it. Was it the predictability? The present-tense narration (which I generally, inexplicably loathe whenever I come across it)? The obviousness of the story's message? Probably a combination of all these things. I would be worried that I might be ruined for "normal" (i.e., not paranormal) YA fiction, except I enjoyed Saving Francesca so much. What I liked most about this book was actually the relationship between Jessie and her older brother, Barrett, who is a senior to Jessie's sophomore. They have a great, supportive relationship, and I often found myself more interested in his plotline (renouncing punk and dating the most popular girl in school) than Jessie's. I also think the book is right about girl-frienship groups and how they change over time (or stagnate), I just didn't connect with the narrator. Perhaps because I am already a self-professed nerd.