Traveling Into the Wild Nerd Yonder

Here at GeekGirlCon, we love to feature guest blogs from you — the people who come to our events, attend our convention, and volunteer or donate to our cause. You are the geeks who keep us motivated, even on the craziest of days.

Today, we are featuring a blog from Eliza Hirsch, a local writer and, of course, proud geek girl. Below, Eilza shares a story about one of her favorite books and why it spoke to her when she was a teenager.


I only made it to my sophomore year before dropping out of my Colorado country high school. I left behind trailer classrooms (the debate club was relegated to a stuffy box hidden behind the school proper), an extra creative mascot (the mighty fighting Falcons from Falcon High School, in the city of Falcon), and a few real, honest-to-Betsy cowboys.

During my illustrious public school career, I developed a couple coping mechanisms. Books were my primary line of defense. I fell in love with stories, and the ability of those stories to transport me into different, more interesting places. Places that made sense.

The paperback cover for Into the Wild Nerd Yonder

Places like the world in Julie Halpern’s Into the Wild Nerd Yonder. The book follows Jessie in her sophomore year of high school. Her best friends are changing in ways she’s not sure she likes, and she’s trying to figure out who she is, how she fits into the world. Sound familiar? Sound like everyone’s second year of high school? Yeah.

I liked this book, and Jessie in particular, for a few reasons. The most important is that Jessie is the kind of girl I might have been in high school—if I was approximately twice as innocent and half as angry. She wears crazy clothes (most of those skirts I mentioned came from the quilting fabric section) and hangs out with people on the fringe of the social strata; she’s funny, and fun.

Jessie’s also unapologetically intelligent and—with a goal of sewing enough skirts to wear a different one every day of school—she’s uniquely creative. She doesn’t mind standing out, yet at the same time she’s pretty insecure, relying on her increasingly difficult-to-relate-to friends. What’s a girl to do?

Well, Dungeons and Dragons, of course.

Around that same time in my life, I discovered tabletop role-playing. Or, to be more accurate, living room floor role-playing. For me, role-playing was another iteration of storytelling. For Jessie, role-playing becomes both a means to connect with people she enjoys being around, and a way to reinvent herself.

Jessie meets Henry, who was part of a role-playing group in her school, and starts spending more time with a DM and less time with her BFFs. Along with epic battles and multi-day campaigns comes the worry that she’s turning into—as the title suggests—a nerd.

The cover for Into the Wild Nerd Yonder also won my heart: corset-topped dress plastered onto a pink background decorated with D20s. The byline My Life on the Dork Side decorates the hem of the dress.

The book as a whole is an easy read, and while Halpern does give Jessie some room to explore her emotions and the way life never seems to stop changing, I think she doesn’t dig too terribly deep. Still, for an enjoyable, sometimes nostalgic, weekend read, it’s worth picking up.

I’m still waiting for the sequel. I’m thinking: Jessie discovers Star Trek and gets roped into making costumes for an epic (and ultimately doomed) public reenactment of Wrath of Khan. Will she finish the last seam before the city park is overwhelmed with families and picnic baskets? Or will all her stitches be wasted? Find out in: The Wrath of Lawn!

Are there any characters—in books or movies or television—that remind you of your high school self? Share them below!


Eliza is a science fiction and fantasy writer living in the Seattle area. She is a ClarionWest alum, loves kitty cats, and collects board games. You can find her online at exploringeliza.com.

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7 responses to “Traveling Into the Wild Nerd Yonder”

  1. Susie_Rantz says:

    Thanks for sharing, Eliza! I associated with Angela from My So-Called Life as a kid, because she was struggling between two worlds: the girl she used to be and the girl she was now. This meant new friends, new priorities, new interests. I was going through a very similar transition in middle school when that show came out, and it was so nice to have a show that felt so real and tackled everyday issues.

  2. Shiboo_Krismer says:

    Eliza, this is awesome! Thanks for getting in on a blog post. I definitely felt like Akane from Ranma 1/2, tomboyish, strong, and trying to find a balance for a softer side while still staying true to who I was. It worked out pretty well in the end.

  3. Eliza says:

    I’m thrilled to get the chance to contribute to GeekGirlCon. Thanks for having me!
    I think those delicate years between 12 and 20 are fraught with transitions, when we are struggling to figure out who we are on the inside, and how that fits with what the world expects us to be. Having characters we can identify with definitely makes the world seem less lonely, which can make a world of difference.

  4. […] have my first ever guest post up on the GeekGirlCon blog […]

  5. Caleb says:

    I think I had bed sheets made out of the same patterned material as the space skirt. Sounds like Wrath of Lawn needs to be a fanfic written by Eliza!

  6. Kristine says:

    I identified a lot with Daria Morgendorffer + her best friend Jane Lane. In high school, I was an amalgam of the two: sarcastic, smart, and a little on the misfit side when I started to question things and listen to good music!

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