Title: The Summer I Became a Nerd
Author: Leah Rae Miller
Synopsis: 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.
Review: I started this book yesterday afternoon and thought ‘I’ll just read 25% and then switch back to CODA’ (which I’m reading in paperback. Ever since I ended up with so many physical books, I’ve been double reading — physical books at home, ebooks for commuting/ work). Well I got to 10% and updated my goodreads, totally relating to the story, and around 40% I had to buy dinner. After dinner my husband fell asleep (he’s still fighting jet-lag) and I then stayed up until 11pm finishing the damn book.
Anyway, this book starts out with our protagonist, Maddie, re-living the defining, traumatic moment when she decided to hide her nerdy side (the comic book reading, sci-fi, action hero loving side). She’s in middle school and gets heckled for being a geek when she dresses up like her favorite comic book hero for a costume contest, and that’s that. Geeky side in the shadows and the quest to squash the memory and become the popular girl begins.
This. Is. So. Relatable. I remember when I was in 7th grade the original Star Wars movies were remastered and shown in theaters. My teacher took us to see A New Hope as a class trip because he was crazy about Star Wars. He had posters up in his room and talked about the originals with us. So we went and I remember LOVING it. But my classmates… not so much. The boys were running around force-choking each other while the girls were complaining about how ‘lame’ it was. So I sunk down in my seat and tried to look bored while I watched, mesmerized.
I didn’t talk about my obsession with Star Wars again until my Junior year of high school. I didn’t tell anyone about how I read all of the books, watched the movies every weekend, bought the Star Wars Encyclopedia, or about how I wanted to marry Luke Skywalker and have his Jedi babies. Nope. That stayed between me, my pen pals (this was pre-internet/twitter/livejournal/facebook), my mother, and the librarian. I didn’t ‘come out’ of the Star Wars closet until Episode One came out and it was suddenly ‘cool’ to like Star Wars. Instead, I hid behind my horseback riding, my cheerleading, and my band practice.
So reading this book was crazy nostalgic for me. I understood how Maddie felt, and how badly she wanted to keep that side of herself hidden.
Enter a crisis where she can’t get the last issue of her favorite comic and has to go down to the local comic book store. She hides behind big sunglasses and a hoodie, but it doesn’t work and the boy working there, your basic geek-chic boy with Chuck Taylors and thick black glasses, notices her. This starts Maddie’s summer of lies as she starts to enjoy her true side while trying to balance her public side.
I so get it.
From hiding in the back of the comic book store to dressing up as an elf and attending her first LARP (something that’s personally not for me, but again, I totally respect those who are into it), she slowly begins to realize that… nobody gives a shit.
While this book had me from the start, a few things that I didn’t quite understand, or maybe would have liked to have seen more of is how Maddie would most defiantly have been living this double life online. She mentions at one point that she has her forums and her ‘geek’ twitter handle, and that she downloads comics… I mean, that’s how I survived for a long time (only through letters and eventually livejournal) and I would have liked to have seen her do a bit more with that.
My favorite part of this book, aside from the personal nostalgia, was the characters. I thought they were all well done and they all had me smiling and laughing at different points through the book. Maddie is a bit self absorbed and cares WAY too much about what others think of her (ahem… guilty as charged here… it wasn’t until last year that I actually said SCREW IT and finally, finally convinced myself to not give a shit about what other’s think of me. I mean, I used to hide my love of YA books by acting like I had to be into them for my job at Borders. Now look at me, blogging away…), I like how she was able to eventually see through her own BS and even called herself out on it a few times. Logan was great, I loved his voice and I could just picture him… in Maddie’s eyes he was this cute confident guy who knows who he is and what he likes, but then through the eyes of his mother and friends I could see that he’s really a shy boy who doesn’t know how to deal with things like girls and emotions. Logan’s little sister, Vera, was adorable and anytime she was on the page I was smiling and laughing at her. Dan, Logan’s best friend, was honest and hilarious. And I loved Logan’s mom. She really gave Maddie someone to look up to.
In the end when Maddie comes out of her own nerd closet I loved the reactions that she got. They were so true to life. Especially in this day and age. I do feel a bit conflicted on the current ‘nerd girl’ trend though. I know that a lot of the time when ‘pretty’ or ‘popular’ girls start coming out about their own nerdy hobbies girls who have never been quite about it seem to be quite hostile towards them. I’ve heard lots of stories about sexy girls doing cosplay or playing video games getting crap for only doing it to get guys or become popular. I’ve always hated the ‘point your finger at the poser’ thing. When I started to talk about my love of anime and Star Wars and all of the other ‘nerdy’ things that I love I didn’t get any hostile reactions, but I did feel that sometimes people were judging how ‘authentic’ I was. Working at Borders was a test of that at times, especially since I was in charge of the Young Adult section and a lot of the goth girls would look down their noses at me when I’d rec’ books to them and gush about vampires and fae.
Honestly though, I think the message that this book gives is the best. Just be yourself, love what you love, and screw everyone else. And don’t judge others and how ‘authentic’ they are. You don’t know their life, and if they’ve been living a secret double life.
I received this eARC from Netgalley and wrote and honest review to say THANK YOU!