A teen rom-com about a nerd who becomes popular.
Dan Garrett returns in Miller’s (The Summer I Became a Nerd, 2013, etc.) YA novel, this time as a romantic lead. He and Zelda Potts (with whom he shares narration duty) have always identified as nerds: their world is ruled by video games, live-action role-playing parties, and the local comic-book shop. During junior year, however, Dan is convinced by pressure from his father (and a growth spurt) to join the basketball team. Now cheerleaders ogle him and jocks invite him to parties. But he’s confused, especially by Zelda, who sees his new popularity as “nerdom betrayal.” Insult becomes injury when Dan accidentally smacks Zelda with a basketball and everyone laughs at her bloody nose. Her revenge includes an elaborate deception in order to dig up Dan’s darkest secrets and expose them on her blog. Of course, just as in other romantic comedy plots from Cyrano de Bergerac to Clueless, nothing goes quite as planned. Zelda has chat sessions with Dan under a false identity, but they are “some of the funniest few hours of [her] life so far,” so her resolve to destroy him wavers. After Dan confesses his feelings for Zelda’s persona to Zelda herself, and then gently shampoos potato salad out of her hair (after a particularly rough lunch hour), Dan feels “Epically messed up,” and Zelda admits that she’s “so very screwed on so many levels.” Miller seamlessly switches between Dan’s and Zelda’s perspectives, offering insight into both characters. Dan is almost too perfect; what teenage boy turns down a cheerleader “pursuing [him] pretty hardcore” or successfully lectures a teammate about bullying? Zelda, however, is flawed and funky, and her journey toward self-realization feels fresh, even when the story doesn’t. References to The Taming of the Shrew and Emma, as well as obvious parallels to The Shop Around the Corner (and You’ve Got Mail), emphasize the recycled plot. But the geek-culture gloss and witty dialogue make Miller’s story a breezy romance in which quirky characters discover the dangers of judging others based on the company they keep.
A hip, funny handling of age-old questions about identity and belonging.