When high school sophomore Jessie's long-term best friend transforms herself into a punk and goes after Jessie's would-be boyfriend, Jessie decides to visit "the wild nerd yonder" and seek true friends among classmates who play Dungeons and Dragons.
Jessie is an utterly fabulous and sweet character, but with a backbone thank goodness! She is trying to figure out who she is and coming to some harsh realizations about her friendships with her two best friends, Bizza and Char. Jessie has had a great example of being your own person all her life, with her older brother Barrett taking the lead, and now Jessie is starting to realize she cannot be a bystander or a little lamb to Bizza's "queen" anymore. Here's a great, great example!
"Great?What the frick is so great about this? You sucked a guy off--a guy I liked--who won't even talk to you anymore. He gave you a sexually transmitted disease because you were too friggin' 'in the moment' to use a condom, not to mention the fact that the only thin you got out of your bedroom visit with Van was gonorrhea! Was it good for you, Bizza? Was it worth trading your best friend for an asshole and some antibiotics?
This book doesn't shy away from real life either. STDs, sex in high school, guys being assholes, girls being mean. I really liked that this felt like a real high school, even as Jessie started to realize she is not a typical high school student.
Jessie isn't sure where she is going to fit in in the social strata of high school but she finds herself leaning towards the "nerds." Particularly, the D&D nerds. Her contemplation of this social change is amusing and serious at the same time. After all, in high school being in the right group is important.
This book is also very humorous and I found myself laughing at several points in the story, or just agreeing with Jessie. Jessie was so me in high school, though I still can't sew. Her description of preparing for the first day of school: spot on me!
The excitement of new classes, seeing people who I like in an everyday way but not an outside-of-school way, and organizing my locker always springs me to life. Not to mention the joy of finally getting to legitimately use all of the school supplies that I've been hoarding for weeks. I follow every back-to-school sale in the Sunday paper, compare prices, highlight the ads, visit all of the necessary stories, and then hide the supplies in my genuinely worn, not faux-distressed, red backpack. I love opening the backpack on First Day of School Eve and--surprise!--there's all of my new stuff.
Yep, that was so me!
In addition, there is a really healthy family relationship in this book. The parents are present and involved, Barrett is a normal older brother, teasing Jessie but also being a person she can rely on for help. It was really nice to see a nice, normal family in a YA book, especially after the last few stories I've read where the parents definitely have some bad issues that affect their kids. There are healthy families out there still!
My one minor complaint is that at times, Jessie's voice felt too grownup and experienced. It's like she already had this inside wisdom about high school. It wasn't constant, but in certain parts of the story I didn't feel like she was acting like a true high school sophomore.
However, that's a very minor quibble. I really enjoyed this story. The writing is strong, Jessie is a fabulous character to get to know and understand, and I learned quite a bit about D&D which I've never played before. It was nice to see the nerds in not a nerdy way, but rather, as unique kids with their own passions too, who make up languages, and just want to have fun with their friends on a Friday night. If you're looking for a story that is humorous but not all lightness and fluff, with a very interesting protagonist, you won't go wrong with this story. I think it may have be written for teens, say 14+, but I think tweens will really enjoy this book too and the content isn't that provocative or explicit that it would be too objectionable.