Friday, March 6, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Opposite of Geek, by Ria Voros

It's Friday!

You know what that means: a full work-day of scrambling to get all those things done that you still haven't managed to wrap up before the weekend starts and no-one else will be at the office to take your calls!

Also, it's Book Review Day.

(Okay, Book Review Day is the real reason for Friday. That, and staying up late watching movies and making nomming popcorn.)

I've been participating in Ontario's Forest of Reading Program, which is basically a Readers' Choice award program for Canadian books. This means a Lot of Reading. A LOT. There are seventy books on my TBR list before voting starts in April! I've read a few real gems, so I'll be sharing some of those with you guys on Fridays for the next few weeks.

Most recently, I was delighted to discover The Opposite of Geek, by Ria Voros. Here's the blurb:

A piercing novel about the unnerving process of growing up, and a girl finding her feet.
Gretchen Meyers doesn't know exactly what went wrong, but life in the eleventh grade is beginning to suck. As if having a semi-nudist, food-obsessed family wasn't awkward enough, she has lost her best friend to the fanatical school swim team, and her chemistry grade is so close to negative digits that only emergency tutoring can save it. So far, so high school. Then James/Dean rolls into her life — also known as her zit-faced chemistry tutor James and his slightly less zit-faced cousin Dean. Kind-hearted rebels without a cause, they draw Gretchen out of classroom hell, and briefly the world seems full of possibility.
But everything changes over the course of one awful night.
Bewildered by harsh new emotions of grief and love, Gretchen realizes she must now decide who she wants to be and what it means to be loyal. Written partly in verse, as self-confessed poetry geek Gretchen finds new ways of expressing herself, The Opposite of Geek is a tale of haiku, high school, and heartache. Rich with humour, it explores all the anguished details of teenage life through the words of one girl who is finding her way.

I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this book. I mean, I can tell you - I enjoyed it a LOT!! - but that's pretty inadequate. After thinking about it, I can break it down into a few key elements:

Characterization: I love the details with which the author imbues the minor characters. Gretchen's dad is German and her mom is Scottish, which plays out in all kinds of interesting little ways throughout the text. There are cliques, whose walls break down as we get to know the characters within them better. There is a guy who is totally hot on the outside, but totally not on the inside. When we talk about a world that is fully fleshed out, a big part of that is having three-dimensional characters living in it, and that is really well-done in this novel.

Playful and Interesting Storytelling Choices: There are moments in which this novel feels like it's been written in free verse, and other moments when it's written in haiku. There are moments wen it's straight-up prose. This could have been garbled and awful and jarring, but in this book, it just all flows and it WORKS. The changes to haiku happen at key emotional beats, when really, who thinks in whole sentences anyway? I felt that I was in good hands the whole time I was reading. I was in the hands of a person who knew how best to tell this story.

Language and Voice: Gretchen is a poet, and she uses phrases like "word sugar". Her voice matches the description we are given of her. That is so much rarer than it should be, and it's a delight when I find a novel in which there is a true synthesis of voice and character.

It all boils down to:

Honesty: The growth that Gretchen goes through in this novel makes sense given the circumstances of the story; the emotions and how the characters express them feel true; the world feels real.

This is a really, really good book, guys. You're missing out if you haven't read it.

Get The Opposite of Geek at your local independent bookstore, or from these online spaces:

IndieBound: CLICK HERE
Chapters: CLICK HERE

Thanks for stopping by.

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