Read How Do You Spell Geek? by Julie Anne Peters Free Online
Book Title: How Do You Spell Geek?|
The author of the book: Julie Anne Peters
ISBN 13: 9780380730537
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 31.54 MB
Edition: Avon Books
Date of issue: November 1st 1997
Read full description of the books How Do You Spell Geek?:I liked some of this author's later work about the gritty reality of life as an LGBT teen, so I checked out some of her earlier work. I've been pretty disappointed with it, but especially with this one. It's very similar in content and structure to another one of hers that I disliked--Love Me, Love My Broccoli--and it's just about as soulless, contrived, and full of unnecessarily cruel references.
Ostensibly, this is a story about a girl who is popular and ambitious with her spelling bee "career" having everything she cares about threatened when the story dumps a geek on her and creates an awkward forced circumstance to push them to be friends. You never actually see Ann portrayed as popular, except that some ass clown of a boy whose entire personality is being an ass clown and being cute sometimes pays attention to her and she "gets tingles" because of his gorgeous blue eyes. There's no actual chemistry or common interests, but of COURSE this guy would never deign to ask her out if there's a geeky-looking girl standing near her sometimes. It's going to RUIN EVERYTHING. (Except that after Ann predictably spins on a dime because the geeky new girl laughs at her jokes and now suddenly Ann cares about her, the hot guy being cruel to her deletes the attraction from her mental vocabulary and he's never mentioned again.)
Everything about this story feels forced. The narration contains unnecessary asides with the first-person protagonist telling the reader stuff that is not important or could have been gleaned from watching the interaction. The introductions of the characters contain all my pet peeves, like introductory rambling about family history, characters appearing being displayed with first and last names, a character "tucking a strand of blond hair behind her ear" for visuals, and stuff like that. (Who tucks a STRAND anyway? One strand? Characters in books so frequently have this hair-tucking gesture during their introduction and then never again. That was this book.) It sometimes had an adverb problem, too. We don't need to be told that someone is shoveling their food into their mouth "hastily," because that is already implied in the fact that they are SHOVELING FOOD when the bell rings. I also found "'Grrr,' he growled." Not kidding.
I've mentioned the boy Ann crushes on. Dreamy Brad with sky-blue eyes, who at one point for no reason at all "grabs her arm" and "spins her around," at which points she melts and stares up into his incredible eyes. And while she's leaking all over his shoes he's flipping out about OH MY GOD *WHAT* IS THAT because THERE'S A GEEK nearby, and Ann is privately agreeing that it must be an alien. It reads like the author had never participated in or witnessed a romantic interaction. Same goes for how a boy pestered the geeky girl by "pulling her pigtails" and refusing to stop. (They're not eight. They're teenagers.)
The "stick a student with another student to manufacture a plot" thing was so false it was baffling; Ann wasn't even signed up in any kind of mentoring program, but then some adult in the administration just picks her and pretends her getting saddled with new kid duty has something to do with them both having recently divorced parents. Because this would obviously make them pariahs in 1996 when the book was published. When the counselors stuck Ann with the new girl, they announced glowingly that she was VERY popular as if that would guarantee that she'd make friends. Adults in administration don't tell kids who's popular.
And at one point Ann is thinking about trying to get out of the responsibility but the counselor bears down on her and asks if she's doing okay because AHHHH DIVORCE YOU KNOW and does she need counseling herself, and she decides yes, she has to take the mentoring position because her only other choice is GOING TO COUNSELING and then EVERYONE WOULD KNOW SHE WAS MALADJUSTED. Why? It's not going to be on the morning announcements. Maybe that's not true with this administration though. They made it their business to blast kids' private business all over the place. Ann overheard kids getting yelled at for smoking and punished for wearing clothes that broke dress code, and it's all just hanging out for everybody to know.
Lurlene, the weird new kid, used to be homeschooled and of course therefore everything about her is turned up to geek level eleven. She wears pigtails, has braces that she gets food stuck in, wears homemade clothes and cowboy boots, and is completely oblivious to social cues. Ann immediately hates her, mentally mocks her, cringes when she thinks others might see them together, ditches her whenever she can, and assumes she has an intellectual disability.
The narration, for the record, is not at all kind to that idea. The FIRST thing Ann thinks when she finds out she's getting a student to mentor is panicked worry about whether the girl might be in "special ed," and when her schedule does include introductory classes because they're not sure where to put her yet, Ann's mental narration rattles off the mocking names more typical students have for those classes, such as "Human Experiments in Science," "Teen Skills for the Criminally Inclined," and "Math for the Mental Giant." Ann also makes an inexcusable joke about how one of their teachers "escaped from the mental ward." There was an obligatory fat joke too, when someone was said to be in the heavyweight wrestling division and the narration threw in "we're talking sumo." And can we PLEASE not imply parents are strict by repeatedly literally calling them Hitler??
Same with a bit where the geeky Lurlene gets a sign put on her back, but no, it's not "KICK ME." It's like a paragraph long introducing her by name, encouraging people to say hi to her, and claiming it's Geek Week or something. People don't participate in things like that and people who are popular don't actually do stuff like that to people.
A couple of things seemed possible for cruel popular kids to do--like when some jerk girl dropped an apple core on Lurlene's tray in the lunch line--but other times it was just phenomenally out of proportion. It's like the author is using made-up descriptions of what being a kid was like and doesn't actually remember that there are not perpetual food fights (including THROWN SILVERWARE) going on in the cafeteria and that the jerkiest girl does not have to be identified as "head cheerleader." And of course one of Ann's embarrassing moments was (gasp) being preoccupied with how she's going to handle being seen with the geek and she gets CALLED ON IN CLASS and DOESN'T KNOW THE ANSWER and is MORTIFIED. Sigh. It's like it pieced together all these awful tropes and didn't even really do them right. And again, this book was published in 1996. People did not say "swell" and "it's the pits" and "that was a scream."
And here's the thing. People seem to think Ann is quite funny in the story. She's just a regular riot. Even though none of her "jokes" make much sense and even her narration seems to be attempting a song and dance to entertain us but it's just . . . bad. She "jokes" that because she talks a lot, her nickname is "rrr-Ann Off At The Mouth." . . . No. That's not a nickname anyone calls anyone. And what exactly is this joke? They're at the lunch table trying to figure out how to spell ontogeny, and Kimberly reads the definition: "Ontogeny: The development or course of development especially of an individual organism. Do you need a sentence?" Ann, ever witty, quips, "I'd prefer an individual organism to develop right here. Preferably male. Preferably Brad McKenzie." She wants . . . Brad . . . to . . . develop? Right here? I don't get it. But this is HILARIOUS to the other characters and Lurlene's brays of laughter bring actual stares. This is a hardcore joke here people. And I don't even get how it makes any SENSE.
But maybe in their world, nonsensical bonding experiences are the core of friendship. For instance, at one point they're still in the O's of the dictionary discussing some word involving "osteo-" and Lurlene says her grandmother has the disease and is "getting a hunchback" and that her dad had suggested "shipping her off to Notre Dame" but her mom didn't think it was funny. Well, it isn't. But boy does Ann think it's a hoot. The bees' knees. Quite a scream.
At one point Ann wonders why Lurlene doesn't have a purse or a notebook or anything. The narration points out that she even lacks "the bare essentials like keys, makeup, brush, comb, and a curling iron." What universe do these girls live in? (Ann also never is said to use any of these things while at school and doesn't discuss worrying about her own appearance whatsoever.)
On top of all the little things that irritated the crap out of me, overall this book just had so many things that fundamentally didn't connect. A "big problem" for Ann is that her divorced parents now have an upsetting dynamic where her mom makes excuses and doesn't come to events if her dad is going to be there. This is just worried about throughout the book until finally in the last scene both parents are at her spelling bee and she sees them laughing together. Ta-da! What. And then throughout is the urgent problem of studying for the spelling bee, which Ann alternately has burning dreams of winning or seems resigned to being upstaged and beaten out by Kimberly, whatever's convenient. Half the time she's like "whatever, I'm not going to win, Lurlene might as well take my place" and the other half the time she's like "BUT MY DREAAAAM!!" (There's also a very silly bit where someone gets to participate in the bee only because another contestant got sick at the last minute. Good thing the alternate happened to be there even though she was never told to be, and so nice to see no one said a thing about whether the kid in the hospital getting his appendix out might be okay.)
And there is nothing--except both laughing at cruel jokes and liking to spell--that Lurlene and Ann seem to have in common, so the sudden diehard devotion to Lurlene and intention to defend her from bullies and sacrifice herself in case it would help Lurlene go to the spelling bee just seemed to come from nowhere. It seemed like she was trying to make it complex and it just didn't really work. And there was the dreaded "well everyone hates you because you're different-looking . . . hey let's just GIVE YOU A MAKEOVER!" scene. They actually did it, and it actually did work in making people not even think she's a geek anymore. Just once I'd like to see a popular kid assigned to mentor a geek and have them just never like each other or whatever.
On top of the uneven writing, unbelievable characters, and falseness of the middle school experience, I just didn't like a single person in the story, and the attempts to make them feel layered or multifaceted just made them feel confused and poorly presented. Even if I don't like a book much I usually don't give it one star, but this one I was actively having a bad time reading, so that's how it ended up. Sorry for rambling.
Read information about the authorJulie Anne Peters was born in Jamestown, New York. When she was five, her family moved to the Denver suburbs in Colorado. Her parents divorced when she was in high school. She has three siblings: a brother, John, and two younger sisters, Jeanne and Susan.
Her books for young adults include Define "Normal" (2000), Keeping You a Secret (2003), Luna (2004), Far from Xanadu (2005), Between Mom and Jo (2006), grl2grl (2007), Rage: A Love Story (2009), By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead (2010), She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not... (2011), It's Our Prom (So Deal with It) (2012), and Lies My Girlfriend Told Me (2014). Her young adult fiction often feature lesbian characters and address LGBT issues. She has announced that she has retired from writing, and Lies My Girlfriend Told Me will be her last novel. She now works full-time for the Colorado Reading Corps.
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