Monday, February 15, 2010

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder, by Julie Halpern

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder: My Life on the Dork Side, by Julie Halpern. New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2009. ISBN-10: 0312382529; ISBN-13: 978-0312382520. 256 p.

Plot Summary
Jessie is a high school sophomore who isn't sure where she belongs. Her two best friends have transformed themselves into punks and left her behind, while her cool brother has shaved his mohawk and started dating the homecoming princess. Where does she fit in? The class dork invites her to play Dungeons and Dragons, but Jessie isn't sure she wants to be labeled a nerd. Everyone else seems so cool with how they are--why can't Jessie? Can being a mathlete, D&D-playing nerd really be that bad?

Critical Evaluation
This first-person narrative is a funny, true-to-life treatment of how teens begin to develop their own sense of self and personality, independent of what friends or classmates are doing. As I was reading it, it felt like something Halpern said hit home on every page. Jessie's observations hit the nail on the head about the challenges of finding yourself in high school.

Reader’s Annotation
Jessie doesn't know where she fits in anymore. With her friends, who have become punk princesses? With her older brother, who is dating the homecoming queen? Or with the class nerds, playing Dungeons and Dragons? Does she care too much what people think of her?

Author Information
A Chicago native, Julie Halpern has been a school librarian for the last seven years. She lives with her husband, illustrator Matthew Cordell, and their Siamese cat. In her free time, she likes to read, travel, watch TV, and play Sims 2. She is also a Dungeonmaster on Wednesday afternoons. She blogs at

Julie says the ideas for this book came mostly from her own past. "Into the Wild Nerd Yonder grew from the idea that I was always the sidekick growing up, until I found a great group of friends that didn’t need to be so in the spotlight. I usually just try to think of people or funny situations that have stuck around in my brain. I figure, if they’re memories worth retaining for this long, then maybe someone else would think they were entertaining, too."

Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Ties
Sociology: teen development, friendship, independence

Booktalking Ideas
Have you ever heard of Dungeons and Dragons? What do you think of it? If you think it's nerdy, you're not alone! Read this story of Jessie, who gradually changes her mind about it as she starts playing D&D.

Reading Level/Interest Age
Grades 9-12

Challenge Issues
language, sexual situations

I included this book because I thought it sounded really funny. It was also nominated for the 2009 Cybil Awards.


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