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Booktalk This: The Geek edition

This quote has been circling the internet for a while, and as a life-long nerd and geek, I’ve worked to live up to the sentiment. This is not always easy, and it was especially difficult for me during high school, as I was torn between wanting to both appear “cool” AND to embrace that which I loved.  In remembering that time, I always enjoy discovering books about teens that are able to embrace their inner geeks or nerds and find happiness at the same time!

Would you rather be the nerd finding love? Or find love with a nerd?
If you’d rather embrace your nerdom while finding love, try Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill.  Julia’s thrilled to spend Spring Break on a school-sponsored, no-parents field trip to London, England, and with extra pencils and her pocket Shakespeare, she plans to get the most out of it. Unfortunately, most of her classmates see the trip as a license to party, and she ends up paired with the worst offender of them all, her nemesis, Jason. Can she keep him from getting into too much trouble? And can he help her woo her true love?

If you’re looking to find love with a nerd of your own, try Julia Halpern’s Into the Great Nerd Yonder. Jessie is the odd girl out at the start of sophomore year, when she comes back to school in a new skirt but her two best friends show up as new people: buzz-cuts, neon hair, and punk rock attitudes. Uninterested in joining their punk rebellion, Jessie spends her time sewing, listening to audiobooks (she has GREAT taste), and dips her toes into tabletop gaming. Can she find happiness over 20-sided dice?
Would you rather use your analytical skills to figure out how to avoid getting dumped? Or to fight the man?
As a former child prodigy and current dumpee, Colin is determined to create a theorem that will explain why nineteen Katherines in a row have dumped him, and enable him – and others – to avoid getting dumped in the future. In John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines, Colin and his best friend, Hassan, go on a summer road trip, chase down feral pigs, and find the grave of Franz Ferdinand in a town called Gutshot. Love, graphing, and anagramming will never be this fun again!  
Marcus is a computer genius…and a rule-breaker. So, when San Francisco is rocked by a terrorist attack and the government responds by cranking up their electronic surveillance, Marcus gets caught in the mix. Scared and angry after a brutal interrogation, he fights back as his hacker alter ego, w1n5t0n, against growing governmental control. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow is a scary and intense thrill ride you won’t want to miss!
And finally, do you limit yourself to one realm of nerdom or geekery? Or does it (like my own) span many areas and genres?
If you limit your geekery to one area, you may feel some camaraderie with Maddy, the heroine of both Mari Mancusi’s Gamer Girl AND of Maddy’s favorite online game, Fields of Fantasy. In the game, Maddy is beyond awesome, and her elfin alter-ego is beginning an online friendship/flirtation with another gamer, Sir Leo.   But, outside of the game, Maddy has no friends at her new school.  Can she be as brave as her manga-style gaming avatar and find love in the real world?
If your geekery knows no bounds, check out the wide-range of fun (for older teens) contained in Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd, an anthology celebrating all things nerd and geek, edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castelucci. Many awesome teen authors contributed, from Cassandra Clare to Scott Westerfeld, and it alternates between short stories and short, funny, how-to comics (my favorite geekdoms are represented in “How to Identify…the Living Dead” and “What to Remember When Going to a Convention”). There’s something here for any form of geekery!
Kearsten is the YA Librarian from the Glendale Public Library in Arizona and our resident Booktalk This column writer.  In short, she rocks.

Booktalk This! The “Would You Rather?” Edition (by Kearsten)


I love a good, on-the-spot booktalk while wandering the stacks with a teen, but when asked for formal booktalks, I always worry about keeping the attention of teens sitting for 30 minutes or more.  My new favorite way to keep those teens involved while introducing them to awesome teen fiction? A booktalk version of “Would You Rather.”

I use PowerPoint to put together my presentation, requiring access to a computer and projector (or a Smartboard) on my visit, but you could do this with the books themselves.  You will also need a way for the teens to participate.  I used colored cardstock scraps – yellow and green – and stapled them together. If you have more time and supplies, attaching your colored ‘flags’ to a wooden stick could be fun, though possibly dangerous (teens do love to hit each other with hand-held objects…). Next, come up with a theme and a pile of books. Finally, you’ll need to pair your books, which is the most fun/challenging part of the whole booktalk!  Here’s a sample of some of the titles I’ll be using for an upcoming middle-school booktalk. Enjoy!

v:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);} o:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);} w:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);} .shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);} Would You Rather: the School Edition! 

 Getting more than a little tired of school? Wish you could transport yourself to a different one? A boarding school perhaps?  One that could teach you skills more exciting than math, science and language arts?  With the end of the school year in sight, yet still maddeningly out of reach, why not take a vacation from this school in book form? But first, some questions . . .

Would you rather: Fight Evil OR BE Evil?

 If you wish your teachers would focus on teaching you to fight evil, try Trenton Lee Stewart’s The Mysterious Benedict Society.  The first of three (so far, not including a puzzle book and a prequel).  The Mysterious Benedict Society introduces four truly exceptional kids who take a series of increasingly perplexing texts, meant to weed out the ordinary, the kind of smart, and the average.  Think you could pass the tests?  Would YOU be up to going undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened? (Hint: spell that acronym backwards . . .)

And for those of you who’d prefer taking classes on manipulation, disguises, and computer hacking, why not try Catherine Jinx’s Evil Genius? I mean, if your dad is considered on of THE most important villains of all time, OF COURSE you’re fast-tracked into the Axis Institute of World Domination.  Cadel’s dad is in prison for life, but this computer genius isn’t letting that impact his future in villainy . . . or will he? 

Would you rather: celebrate art? Or steal it?

After surviving a terrorist attack, Jane and her parents move to the suburbs, where Jane must start over in a new school. Luckily for her, she finds her ‘tribe’, and with a bit of convincing, gets them to join her in guerrilla art projects, anonymously creating sculptures around their town with the logo, “Art Saves”. But what happens when adults get fed up with this bizarre ‘graffitt’? Can Jane count on her new friends? Find out in The Plain Janes, a graphic novel by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg.

K., the teen-aged main character in Richard Sala’s graphic novel, Cat Burglar Black, has had a rough life: raised in an orphanage by a woman who forced the children to either steal or go hungry, she’s developed some interesting skills. When K. is invited to enroll in the Bellsong Academy for Girls, she expects to leave that life behind. Unfortunately, the school administrators have a different plan for K. and her three equally gifted classmates…

And this last group (which I will not be including for the middle schoolers, as the content is aimed at older teens), is a bonus:

Are you cross-dressing: for research? Or for stalking purposes?

In Babe in Boyland, by Jody Gehrman, Natalie needs to up the ante for her love column, as her advice STINKS. What better way to find out how a guy thinks than to disguise oneself as a guy and enroll in an all-male boarding school? What could possibly go wrong when your new roommate is the cutest guy you’ve ever seen? And whose sister develops a huge crush on your male alter-ego?!

Have a crush on a superstar athlete? No problem! Japanese-American Mizuki, a pretty amazing athlete herself, manages to get a transfer to a high school in Japan to get closer to HER crush. Her parents are totally cool with her moving to Japan for school, but they might not actually have the whole truth about the genetic makeup of Mizuki’s future classmates. Break out the scissors and boy uniforms…and the laughs, as hijinks ensue in Hana Kimi: For You in Full-Blossom, Vol. 1, by Hisaya Nakajo, the first in a manga series for older teens.