An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

Book Info
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
© 2006 Dutton Juvenile, Boston, MA
ISBN 978-0525476887

Plot Summary
Some people have a certain type, such as tall blondes or mysterious brunettes, but Colin Singleton’s type consists solely of girls named Katherine. At the young age of 17, Colin has already dated, and been dumped by, nineteen Katherines. In the aftermath of his most recent relationship with Katherine the 19th, Colin and his best friend Hassan decide to embark on a soul searching road trip. While driving through Tennessee, they come across a town called Gutshot that claims to be the resting place of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose death sparked the beginning of World War I. They soon become acquainted with Lindsay Lee Wells and her mother Hollis who offers them work in the town’s factory that produces tampon strings. During their stay in Gutshot, Colin struggles to make sense of life and perfect his theorem for predicting the fate of relationships. Colin has to learn the hard way that not everything is predictable or necessarily makes sense, especially when he falls for his first Lindsay.

Reader’s Annotation
After nineteen in a row, Colin Singleton only seems to date girls named Katherine. After being dumped by each and everyone, Colin sets out on a road trip to heal and make sense of the world, only to find that not everything makes sense.

Critical Evaluation
The main character, Colin, would probably be considered a bit of a nerd. He is a wealth of what most would consider useless information, a whiz at anagrams, and in order to explain his failures with romance and hopefully predict the future, he works to develop a theorem to discern the fate of a relationship between two people. The book is a fun-filled story with many laugh-out loud moments and interesting epiphanies for both the characters and the reader. I personally had a hard time with the overuse of the word “fug” or “fugging” as a replacement for the more controversial “f-word.” I couldn’t understand that if the author would allow this word to be used so frequently, why not just use the more vulgar version? The vulgar version probably wouldn’t have bothered me or stood out so much. Thankfully, later on in the book, the author explains through the voices of the characters their reasoning for using the word “fug” when they get called out on not just using the intended vulgarity, just as I had wished to do as the reader.

Information about the Author
John Green is a New York Times bestselling author whose books have been published in more than a dozen languages.

In 2007, Green and his brother Hank ceased textual communication and began to talk primarily through videoblogs posted to youtube. The videos spawned a community of people called nerdfighters who fight for intellectualism and to decrease the overall worldwide level of suck. (Decreasing suck takes many forms: Nerdfighters have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight poverty in the developing world; they also planted thousands of trees around the world in May of 2010 to celebrate Hank’s 30th birthday.) Although they have long since resumed textual communication, John and Hank continue to upload three videos a week to their youtube channel, vlogbrothers. Their videos have been viewed more than 75 million times, and their channel is one of the most popular in the history of online video. He is also an active (if reluctant) Twitter user with more than 1.1 million followers.

Green’s book reviews have appeared in The New York Times Book Review and Booklist, a wonderful book review journal where he worked as a publishing assistant and production editor while writing Looking for Alaska. Green grew up in Orlando, Florida before attending Indian Springs School and then Kenyon College.

From the author’s website.

Genre
Realistic Fiction, Nerd Lit

Curriculum Ties
Mathematics, History

Booktalking Ideas
Discuss what Hollis has done for the town through the factory. Do you agree or disagree with her course of action?

Reading Level/ Interest Age
15+

Challenge Issues

  • Foul language.
  • Sexuality

Defense options

  • Be aware of your library’s collection development policy.
  • Be familiar with the material in question, and the context of the questionable content.
  • Assert the principles of the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and standards of intellectual freedom.
  • Consult online book reviews, and others who have read the book.
    • The overuse of “fugging” is explained later in the book. Be aware of the justification for using that word.

Why Included?
I have seen some of John Green’s Nerdfighter videos on Youtube and was happy to have found a picture that included one of my favorite quotes from one of his videos to include as his author photo. After seeing his rather clever and adorable videos, I was eager to check out his contributions to young adult literature.

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Gamer Girl by Mari Mancusi

Book Info
Gamer Girl by Mari Mancusi
©2008 Dutton Children’s Books, New York, NY
ISBN 978-0525479956

Plot Summary
In the wake of her parents’ divorce, Maddy finds herself in a new town and a new school. All hopes of a fresh start are quickly thrown out the window when an unfortunate accident on the first day of school lands her the nickname “freak girl.” In the city, she had a tight group of friends, but now she has no one and feels like she’s destined to stay that way forever. She finds herself retreating into her drawing – manga art – until she receives the new online role playing game Fields of Fantasy. Here, Maddy can escape the horrors of her real life and finally be herself. She immerses herself into her character Allora who is not only powerful, strong and brave, but a beautiful Elfin princess as well. Through Allora, Maddy even manages to find virtual love when she meets fellow gamer and valiant champion, Sir Leo. Unfortunately everyone knows you can’t escape reality forever, and Maddy must eventually face the Haters. Can she use the confidence and strength she has developed in the game to overcome her problems in real life?

Reader’s Annotation
Video games can serve as magical escapes, and for Maddy who is recovering from her parents’ divorce and struggling in a new town, Fields of Fantasy is just that. Unfortunately, she can’t avoid her problems forever, but can she use the skills she has acquired in the game to help her combat her real life problems?

Critical Evaluation
The world of online gaming is largely male dominated, so as a female and former PC gamer I was really excited by the premise and female gamer point of view of this book. While I ultimately enjoyed the book, I was mostly unimpressed in its execution. On the plus side, I was able to relate to it pretty well, it was an easy read and the writing was well done. I enjoyed the rotation between the excerpts from the in-game chat and the first person narrated story. I found the dialog to be incredibly realistic. Mancusi really captured how gamers talk which made me feel nostalgic, but for someone not familiar with gamer-speak, it might seem slightly confusing or weird. My major complaint about the book is that the story felt very cliché which left me feeling slightly disappointed.

Information about the Author
Mari Mancusi used to wish she could become a vampire back in high school, but she ended up in another blood sucking profession –journalism — instead. Today she works as a freelance TV producer and author of books for teens and adults.

When not writing about creatures of the night, Mari enjoys traveling, cooking, goth clubbing, watching cheesy horror movies, and her favorite guilty pleasure–videogames. A graduate of Boston University and a two time Emmy Award winner, she lives in Austin, Texas with her husband Jacob and their dogs Mesquite and Bowie.

Visit the author’s website.

Genre
Realistic Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Nerd Lit

Curriculum Ties
N/A

Booktalking Ideas
Discuss the similarities and differences between online friends/relationships and those in real life. Can you really be friends with someone you’ve never met?

Reading Level/ Interest Age
12+

Challenge Issues

  • Occasional foul language

Defense options

  • Be aware of your library’s collection development policy.
  • Be familiar with the material in question, and the context of the questionable content.
  • Assert the principles of the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and standards of intellectual freedom.
  • Consult online book reviews, and others who have read the book.

Why Included?
I read Cory Doctorow’s For the Win and despite including female gaming characters, seemed mostly geared towards a male audience. I came across this book and was eager to see how gaming was portrayed from a female point of view.

The Queen Geek Social Club by Laura Preble

Book Info
The Queen Geek Social Club by Laura Preble
©2006 Berkeley Jam Books, New York, NY
ISBN 978-0425211649

Plot Summary
With a mad-scientist for a father and a Jetsons-esque robot named Euphoria for a nanny, life certainly wasn’t normal for San Diego teen Shelby Chapelle, but it was good. She was perfectly happy not being the most popular person in school and though she mostly kept to herself, she still managed to keep an active dating life. Since the death of her mother just three years before, she was missing the companionship of a good female friend, until the freakishly tall and tattooed new girl Becca Gallagher came to town from edgy Los Angeles. Shelby and Becca became fast friends, uniting in their atypical geekdom and they figured why stop there? There must be more of their kind out there! And so the “Queen Geek Social Club” was formed, and thus Shelby and Becca are transformed from wall flowers to social butterflies while finding their way through the twists and turns of high school.

Reader’s Annotation
Shelby is a self proclaimed geek, and perfectly content being a geek army of one, but when the edgy new girl Becca moves to town, Shelby’s no longer alone. The two form the “Queen Geek Social” club, and set out to find more of their kind and shake things up as they find their way through high school.

Critical Evaluation
While being a nerd is increasingly becoming considered more and more “cool” by society’s standards, they are still rather underrepresented as heroes, heroines and in romance as the wooer or the one being wooed. As a self-proclaimed nerd myself, I always wanted to see a romance novel where nerds are the main characters in contrast to the typical muscled men and buxom blondes. While The Queen Geek Social Club isn’t exactly what I had in mind, I was really excited by the premise and what it would mean for nerdy teen girls. Though, after reading the book I was left feeling that the “geeks” weren’t quite geeky enough. The main character Shelby has a scientist for a father and a robot for a friend, but I found her and Becca to be much more on the girly side. Even still, this novel taps a niche market that is still relatively untapped and I thoroughly enjoyed it and welcome further contributions by Laura Preble.

Information about the Author
Laura Preble is a journalist, singer, teacher, and writer from San Diego, California. Her first novel in the series, Queen Geek Social Club, is in its second printing and Queen Geeks in Love marks the second book in the series. A third, Prom Queen Geeks, was published this year. She has written one other young adult novel, Lica’s Angel. Preble is the winner of a 2005 Kurt Vonnegut Fiction Prize, and has won numerous awards for her journalistic writing and teaching.

She has held many jobs in her life. They include the following: pool cleaner, text book repair person, office assistant for the French department at Ohio State, babysitter, retail Indonesian clothing sales clerk, library assistant, maker of big structures using refrigerator boxes, publicity director for a theatre company, curriculum writer, software writer, journalist, columnist, playwright, singer, and high school teacher.

She is married to Chris Klich, an accomplished and very talented jazz woodwind player and college professor. They have two sons, Austin (13) and Noel (almost 4).

Visit the author’s website.

Genre
Realistic Fiction, Chick Lit, Nerd Lit

Curriculum Ties
N/A

Booktalking Ideas
Discuss the relationship between Shelby and Euphoria.

Reading Level/ Interest Age
14+

Challenge Issues

  • Mild sexuality.

Defense options

  • Be aware of your library’s collection development policy.
  • Be familiar with the material in question, and the context of the questionable content.
  • Assert the principles of the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and standards of intellectual freedom.
  • Consult online book reviews, and others who have read the book.

Why Included?
I met this local San Diego author at an author event at my library and was intrigued by the premise of her series. I thought it would be good for adding variety within the chick lit genre.