**spoiler alert** In all honesty, if this hadn't been a free book (my friend runs a used bookstore and is forever refusing to allow me to pay for tran...more**spoiler alert** In all honesty, if this hadn't been a free book (my friend runs a used bookstore and is forever refusing to allow me to pay for transactions; I pay her in cake), I'd have been upset that I paid money for it.
I'd been thinking about snagging this book forever. Like almost everyone else I know, I love John Green. I love John Green so much that after I finish this review, I'm shelling out a twenty-five dollar donation to read his self-proclaimed 'terrible' novella entitled Zombicorn. Therefore, reading this book was a no-brainer, though I wasn't familiar with either of the other writers involved. Additionally, I'm a sucker for a good holiday romance. Good holiday romances these were not, though.
Maureen Johnson's story is first - "The Jubilee Express". It wasn't entirely memorable. I remember the basic premise was a girl traveling because her parents were incarcerated for not leaving a line in which they had been waiting for a collectible winter figurine thingum. I remember that the train stopped and the girl inexplicably got off the train and headed to Waffle House where she met a stranger who she goes home with. Overall forgettable. Sorry, Maureen Johnson.
Next was John Green's "A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle". As I suspected when I first picked up the book, it was my favorite of the three stories. What was likeable about this story for me was that it departed from John Green's usual schtick of geeky-awkward boy falling in love with a quirky girl filled with wanderlust. I can't say that I enjoyed it better than I did, say, Paper Towns, but it was an interesting peek outside of John's niche. He should try it again sometime.
"The Patron Saint of Pigs" by Lauren Myracle was last, thank god, because if it hadn't been, I sincerely doubt that I would have been able to plow through the rest of the book. Like John Green, based on this novella, Lauren Myracle seems to have a niche, too - cultivating extremely annoying characters. The main character, Addie, was narcissistic, whiny, and a total bitchtaco. She cheated on her boyfriend and whined and cried because her friends tried to approach the subject of getting her boyfriend back realistically - guess what, bitchtaco? Boys don't want you back if you cheat on them. If I ever met a person like Addie in real life, I think I'd find a gun and shoot her. Needless to say, I will not be reading anything else by Lauren Myracle.(less)
**spoiler alert** Before I start, a preamble: I find it impossible to review an anthology comprised of works written by a multitude of authors as one...more**spoiler alert** Before I start, a preamble: I find it impossible to review an anthology comprised of works written by a multitude of authors as one joint work, therefore I present to you reviews of each story in this book, okay? Okay. Firstly, allow me to say that this - I can't think of a more awesome idea for an anthology than the broad subject of geekery. No, really, as a card-carrying geek, discovering this book existed was the equivalent of some nebulous spaceship descending from the Heavens and opening its doors so that it can take me to some far-away planet where people exactly like me existed. I'm not alone! You're not alone! We're not alone!
The book begins with Once You're a Jedi, You're A Jedi All the Way, a joint effort by editors Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci. It's the story of what happens when a Trekker wakes up in a foreign bed at a hotel during a convention. Much to her chagrin, the resident of the room in which she finds herself is none other than a Jedi. This, of course, is a major no-no. Even with minimal knowledge of Star Wars and Star Trek (I've seen the movies, but I don't read the books and I've never watched the show), I found this short highly enjoyable. This story is the source of what could be my favorite line out of the whole book - "...he had a Vulcan girlfriend who was watching us both like she wanted to have some kind of pon-farr excuse to kick my ass." The rivalry between canons culminates into a Trekker on Star Warsian battle - master Jedi and their padawans versus Starfleet cadets and Klingons. What can I say? Awesome.
One of Us by Tracy Lynn was okay. It was about a 'popular' girl named Montgomery that decided to nerdify herself in order to relate to her boyfriend. I love the concept of her taking classes in geek - Trek, Star Wars, LOTR, comics, etc. I found it mildly annoying how the author kept defaulting to the epithet 'the cheerleader' whenever describing Montgomery's thoughts or actions - and she does it a lot. Still, I liked the overall cast of characters in the story; I particularly liked that Montgomery formed a friendship with the girl of the geek squad, Ellen.
Definitional Choas by Scott Westerfeld was one of my least favorites, sorry. It started off okay - a trip on a train to deliver a suitcase full of money so that a ton of people could have their hotel rooms secured for a convention. Then it delved into super-irritating territory. The narrator's ex-girlfriend is elected to go on this trip, too. She, in a word, is a bitch. At first it seems kind of stupid that the reason they broke up is because the ex is responsible for offing an RPG character of the narrator's. But then this chick essentially poisons the narrator via a bottle of vodka spiked presumably with some kind of narcotic, implying that when she wakes first - and she will, because she's had less of the spiked hooch - she's going to take the money. No, really. I want to punch her. Well-written as it was, this story just wasn't palatable for me.
Because I know a bit about her internet history, it's difficult for me to be objective in reviewing anything that Cassandra Clare has ever written, so I don't know if this a fair review or not. It's my first piece of hers and will likely be my last. I Never tells the tale of people from an online RPG meeting up and partying. It seemed really unlikely to me and the whole story was filled with moments that just plain embarrassed me - a girl hooking up with the Supernatural boys? Shut up, Cassandra Clare. Sure, there was a cutesy little love story, but it doesn't take more than a cursory look to decide that the story is just recycled Cyrano de Bergerac which has already been reincarnated a thousand times already. One of my least favorites in the book.
M. T. Anderson's The King of Pelinesse was creepy. It had weird oedipal tones - a boy reconstructs a letter his mother ripped up that was addressed to her by a favorite fantasy writer/graphic novelist. The letter is flowery porn. The kid goes to see his hero to ask him about this affair with his mother, ruminating more than once on "the gem of her womanhood". Gross.
The Wrath of Dawn by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith wasn't bad, but it wasn't memorable, either. It's about a girl going out to see Buffy: the Musical. Her name is Dawn. People hurl insults at Dawn when she's onstage. Narrator Dawn steals a mike and takes the name back. It was like it should have been powerful, but it was really just kind of forgettable.
David Levithan's Quiz Bowl Antichrist is one of my favorites of this anthology. I don't care what Levithan writes, I love his writing style and I love his ability to make his characters three dimensional when allowed only the smallest amount of space. The story follows a ragtag team of Quiz Bowl members. As the sole expert on literature, the narrator is an outcast in his own group, but chooses to stay in the group for his crush - Damien. It's a nice little story that's pure Levithan - about a boy that's in the midst of discovering something about himself and it's funny. It's so funny. It's the only story out of the book that I've managed to read twice.
The Quiet Knight by Garth Nix is a sweet little fairytale. It follows a kid with a certain problem with his speech - a result of swallowing a household cleaner when he was younger, hence the 'quiet'. He seeks solace in LARPing as a knight. It is implied that he plays this specific character because it's the kind of person that he wants to be and, of course, so that the story had some kind of symmetry - he becomes a knight in school the day following one of his LARPING adventures by rescuing the girl that played the Bard. It's sweet. It's not the greatest story in the book, but it's one of the better ones.
One of my least favorite shorts in this book is Lisa Yee's Everyone But You. It tells the story of a baton-twirler whose life is upended when she has to move to Hawaii. The shocker - the school doesn't have much of an athletic program and the kids are unfriendly. I fail to see how twirling a baton makes you a geek. Additionally, the story was really fleshy to start, but three or four pages in, it was like Lisa Yee realized she had a deadline and threw the rest together in a hurry. It was a story that wasn't really relevant to the anthology and it was very poorly written.
Secret Identity by Kelly Link is tied for first on my favorites list. It's the origin story of a girl, written in the format of a letter to a person she was supposed to meet up with in a hotel - Paul Zell. I don't even know how to describe it. It was written like a comic book and it was real and I loved it. Best scene of the book, hands down - a tertiary character whose name escapes me has a talent for butter sculptures of famous supervillains (and, FYI, Hellalujah is an awesome name for a villain). And at one point, there is a BUTTER FIGHT. I love it.
The story for which I bought this anthology was Freak the Geek by John Green. That said, it was the single most disappointing story in this anthology. Really. This is the second time in a row that John Green has disappointed me and I wish that I had read this and his story from Let It Snow first and then read Paper Towns. It's about two geeky girls that get 'freaked' because it's a school tradition - the popular girls pick a couple of geeks to torture every year. They choose to do it by launching a volley of paintballs at them, which makes me wonder if this is a made-up school where there is no staff, because if this happened in any other school, these kids would probably be arrested for bring a gun - any kind of gun - on campus. Also, as tired as I am of all John Green's stories being about a pseudo-geeky guy crushing on a quirky girl, he needs to stick with what he knows. It was evident in what exists of this story (and there's not much of it at all; it's like he asked what the minimum word count was and just barely made it) that he cannot write girl to save his life. There are no quirky one-liners, the writing is so boring that I feel like an eighth-grader could have come up with something more interesting. I'm ashamed of you, John Green.
You know, The Truth About Dino Girl by Barry Lyga started out awesome. What's not to love - a likable character who sprouts dinosaur facts in order to describe her feelings for a dude? I love it. I love dinosaurs. What's not to love. Here's the irritating part. The boy she loves has a girlfriend who Katie likes right up until said girlfriend discovers Katie's crush. The girlfriend is horrible to her. But not horrible to warrant the punishment that she receives - really, Katie? Taking a nude picture of an underage girl in a locker room and posting it around school with her phone number? And then the fact that she's unapologetic about it? It made me instantly hate this short.
This Is My Audition Monologue by Sara Zarr is another one that I could care less about. It's written in the perspective of a girl who gets overlooked for parts in drama and always put on the backstage crew. Maybe it's because I never got the appeal of drama, maybe it's because I don't really see what's so nerdy about being in drama. It was just kind of a pointless, boring story.
Another cute little love story is The Stars at the Finish Line by Wendy Mass. It's the story of a boy and girl in competition since they were kids. They both want to be astronauts until the boy grows up and realizes that it's not the astronaut career that he wants, it's the girl that wants the astronaut career. So they come together for an all-night Messier Marathon - a competition to see over a hundred space anomalies, etc. before the sun rises. Lots of detail about constellations and nebulae and a lot of other stuff that went totally over my head, here, but it makes me want to pick up an astronomy book. Yep. It's that good.
Lastly, It's Just a Jump to the Left by Libba Bray. Eh. It's a coming-of-age story about a girl and while I'll grant you it's a little meatier than most of the stories in the anthology, I didn't really care for it. Maybe because I've never seen Rocky Horror Picture Show (and I won't ever; it's not my thing) or maybe it's because various things irritated me - the unresolved story with the boy that Leta kisses, her teacher smoking weed in front of her, etc. I don't know. Forgettable.
After each story was a little comic, which I'm going to say were the most enjoyable parts of the book for me. I really did need to know how to ask where the bathroom is in Klingon! I wanted to know what kind of geek I am! These comics might be worth the purchase of the book alone, truthfully. But despite some of my less-than-positive reviews of certain stories in the anthology, I think the whole thing is overall awesome and definitely worth the read.(less)