Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Two Parties, One Tux, and a Very Short Film About The Grapes of Wrath

Bloomsbury Publishing
Release date: October 14
Reviewed by Melissa

There are always going to be trends in publishing. Sometimes one thing is "in", and there are a myriad of books that just happen to have that specific thing; sometimes it's another. Right now, in YA books at least, vampires, fairy tales and geeks are in. I am often wary, though, about trendy books; they too often seem to copy one another. However, while this one -- which falls in the geek category, subset "geeky boys"-- isn't a copy of the other geek books out there: it's not hip, but it is a good story, one that does geeks proud.

Mitchell is the said geek: 17-years-old, smart (but not a show-off), never-been-kissed (or anything else), more interested in movies and his art/animation class and his best friend, David, than in anything else. Not a true geek (he admits that himself), but geeky enough to slide through the cracks of high school. Even so, life is okay, until David tells Mitchell that he's gay. Mitchell's okay with that, but somehow it changes their relationship. On top of that, the cutest/most popular girl in school decides that Mitchell's worth giving the time of day (and a whole lot else!) to. And if that wasn't enough turmoil for the last few months of a junior year, he's in trouble for the claymation movie (entitled "An Animated Exploration of the Biblical Themes in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath") he turned in to his English teacher instead of writing the paper.

What the book lacks in plot -- and the plot does feel kind of stretched thin in places -- it more than makes up in humor. From the chapter titles (my favorite: "A short dramatic presentation of a Wells family dinner followed by a quick review of the entire history of my love life") to the sub-headings (a random example: "Louis explains the wedgie inquisition"), to the internal conversations Mitchell has, it's full of what I'd like to call affectionate snark. It's poking fun at high school, and geeks, but I could tell that while he was making fun of them, Goldman really liked his characters with a genuine affection. Which really made the difference in this book for me. The tone contrasted with the situations, from absurd to intense, and the silliness and sarcasm nicely. The whole book came off as sweet (I know; it's a book about 17-year-old boys--it's not supposed to be sweet, but it was), almost cute (but not quite). The way Goldman handled the situations and made the book not only readable, but enjoyable. It's not deep, it's not profound, it's not edgy. But it is a fun look at a few weeks in the life of a high school geek.

Which means: I thoroughly enjoyed it. Go Geek.

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