My almost-13 year old daughter Amanda and I were in the bookstore recently. When I held up a book for her, she turned up her nose. “What?” I asked. “They’re in middle school, like you.”
“Mom. Lots of people write books for young kids about people who are older.”
I got her point, and I could certainly think of books that featured 12-year-old girls that were really written for 10-year-olds, but my work as a Cybils judge last year showed me that there are a lot of novels that are perfect for an older 12-year-old (even 13!) middle grade audience.
When I first started Nerd Girls: The Rise of the Dorkasaurus, I wasn’t sure which way it would go. It’s your typical outsiders versus it-girls kind of premise, but the novel itself is anything but simple stereotype.
Maureen is the narrator, and introduces herself as not only uncool but anti-cool. One day she ends up sitting with Allergy Alice (even less cool than her) and Barbara Beanpole at lunch. The girls who rule the 8th grade — the ThreePees (pretty, popular and perfect) — have a plan to make Alice eat peanut butter sandwiches at lunch, which of course she’s allergic to, and video it to see what happens. Maureen steps in and grabs the sandwiches, and shoved them into her mouth. This did not help her reputation as a chubby girl at all. To make matters worse, the girls videoed it and posted it on YouTube, and it’s gone viral.
Adversity brings people together like nothing else can, and from this moment on Mo, Beanpole and Q (because she asks so many questions) were honest-to-goodness friends.
My daughter and her best friend often call each other “nerd,” and I sort of object to that term. However, in this book, the girls appropriate it for themselves, even signing up for the talent show as the Dorkasaurus Girls with the sole goal of dethroning Kiki and the other ThreePees who win each year.
These girls sort of remind me of the kind of guys you usually read about in books. They ribbed each other (a LOT), they experienced vague crushes but didn’t really obsess about them, they didn’t get all mushy about their friendships. As I said, I think that in books the typical approach is that the girls would share their feelings about how important they’ve been to one another and hug and do each other’s nails and makeup. Although this is more dramatic and heartfelt than the laughs at each other’s expense that boys are allowed to have, I think that the relationship that the Nerd Girls have is as true-to-life as the more typical presentation of middle school girls, and I really liked this original angle.
I don’t know if it’s because the author, Alan Lawrence Sitomer, is a guy, or if it’s because he’s a teacher, but it definitely rings true.
So, how did I come out on the age for this book? I think that Nerd Girls straddles that line perfectly. There’s certainly nothing inappropriate for a 9 or 10 year old reader, but I think that as the plot progresses it has enough emotional maturity to touch a true middle-school reader as well.
Find out more at The Nerd Girls World website.
Don’t miss a thing: Check out our current giveaways. Subscribe to our feed or video reviews on YouTube. Follow us @5M4B on Twitter or on Facebook.
Jennifer never claimed to be cool, but she wouldn’t have called herself a dorkasaurus either (and is choosing to think that others didn’t either). She runs a way cool blog, Snapshot, if your definition of cool is bragging and complaining about children, traveling, eating, or reading.
Open Your World Book Reviews says
this looks cute my oldest is starting 5th grade but she might like this off to see if our library has it!