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.
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.