read a book: Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci
I picked up Cecil Castellucci's young adult novel Boy Proof because Holly Black said to on her livejournal. I'm funny that way. I made a mental note after Holly's entry and when I saw it at the bookstore, snagged it immediately. Also, the bio was a proud proclamation of geekiness and the dedication was to "To all nerdy girls everywhere." It sang out to me. I was having a bad week. This was the book I needed.
I actually meant to read another YA I'd bought first, but I opened and started reading and did not move and did not even really look up that much, not even for the Oscars, until I was finished reading it. It's rare to find a book with a first person narrator so strong, convincing and well written that she can tug you through a book like Egg did me, especially through lots of cringe-inducing moments. One of the hardest things the book pulls off is creating a psyche so convincing in the main character that it's both believable and riveting when she makes mistakes and does things that are obviously counter to what she wants. It's a hard trick to make a first person narrator's motives and inner life so clear, while keeping the same realizations at arm's length for the actual character for most of the book.
Egg isn't the character's real name, but the name of her favorite science fiction movie character, from the fictional Terminal Earth. She's painfully separate from the other kids at her school and not a little superior and condescending. I've always liked a certain kind of sharp condescension and so found this a likable trait, especially when the new kid Max shows up, a hot guy who turns out to be smart enough to challenge Egg's place at the top of the intellectual heap. (Did I mention she's bad at math? I can so relate.) Egg's Los Angeles is all its own, in a way related to the Los Angeles of the Weetzie Bat books but far less fanciful.
The book is ultimately a love story. Much of the book is about how Egg's desire for Max changes her. But the real love story is watching this character come into her own. Watching her cast off her imitation of "Egg" and become Victoria.
But the real reason I loved, loved, loved this book is that it captures so much of the timeless state of geekery in high school, from the point of view that recognizes the geeky kids are actually cool and as interesting as any other social group to focus on. Yeah, Max is one of the hip kids, but we don't like him for that -- we like him for being a geek (albeit a part-time one) and for liking Victoria even at her prickliest. And it's funny as hell (especially the made up science fiction movie and TV series parts).
I kept reading aloud from it to Christopher. Here's one of my favorite bits:
Martin is pear-shaped and doughy. His eyelashes are extremely long. He is sensitive and smart, but not as smart as I am. Rue is his girlfriend. She is thick-waisted but not really fat. She wears a scarf and a fedora hat all the time because she loves Doctor Who, but they don't go with her glasses and my mom would say that the browns wash out her pale skin. I think she should at least get rid of that old fedora or get over Doctor Who; I don't know which is more outdated.
Martin and Rue are so in love it makes me sick. They are in the kind of love you want to be in. They respect each other. They give each other space. They have individual personalities but they complement each other. I envy them.
I hate anybody in love.
Castellucci has a large and interesting web presence: her home page, Egg's Los Angeles page, her livejournal and Cecil's Crush Library.
I highly recommend checking Boy Proof out if any of the above sounds vaguely interesting or enjoyable to you or if you have a soft spot for teen movies with misfit girls -- or as a present for any teenage girls you may know that are going to grow up into amazing people but are not finding their skin exactly the right size at the moment.
Update: I also see on Castellucci's lj that she is in possession of an ARC of MT Anderson's Whales on Stilts. I covet.