Buy Word Nerd
Special $10.27 (Regular price: $12.95)
Publisher: Tundra Books
Reviewer: Melissa on September 29, 2010
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Ambrose is a 12-year-old boy with a fatal peanut allergy, who is a self-defined nerd. After moving to Vancouver with his over-protective mother, he begins an unlikely but solid friendship with the ex-con named Cosmo, who lives upstairs. It’s their love of Scrabble – Ambrose has been playing around the kitchen table since he was eight and Cosmo learned in prison – that brings them together in the first place. However, if you read Word Nerd, you’ll learn that when two people have at least one point of connection, it’s likely that others will crop up along the way.
I read WordNerd immediately after I finished Susin Nielsen‘s 2010 release, Dear George Clooney Please Marry My Mom. While the first one was quite engaging and funny, I personally enjoyed Word Nerd a little bit more. For me, it was funnier than the other novel, and knowing that it is a companion book made me more excited about it. However, there’s more to it then that alone. You could say that I was fascinated by the “rare bird” that is Ambrose and loved the way his friendship with Cosmo develops. While they have differences on the surface, their common enjoyment of a few key interests makes the shallow distinctions unimportant both to each other and to readers. Who wouldn’t love to learn it early on as a teen?!?
One of the things that I really loved about Ambrose relates to reading. I’ve heard a number of issues that YA readers have about the novels that they read, including that the characters which we love so dearly rarely pick up a book in the mist of the action and that there aren’t enough books written for male teen readers. Ambrose, like his female counterpart in Dear George Clooney Please Marry My Mom, is a big reader of YA fiction, so clearly there’s more to his love of words that a Scrabble game. Moreover, with the lack of male main characters in YA books, it’s not surprising that a boy reader would often skip the teen section altogether in search for an adult novel thinking it would, more likely, speak to a male perspective. However, readers of this book will have the opportunity to connect with a character, who not only shares their love of words, but also seems like an authentic male character, which is a little rare in the current market.
Some, not all, of the books with a male POV seem a little too emo and don’t cover any of the real issues that male teens face, like getting beaten up by bullies and having erections at embarrassing times, or the newly-awakened desires they have for women, which should be expressed differently from how a teenage girl would express them her feelings for a guy. Susin Nielsen seems to have a very clear understanding about what a teen boy like Ambrose would need to deal with on a daily basis, and she writes about these thoughts in a fresh, to-the-point way. There isn’t any doubt in my mind that a young teen guy who doesn’t quite fit in with other boys will identify with Ambrose and even be able to laugh along with the mishaps in which he finds himself, whether they’re obsessive or reluctant readers. Therefore, I’m not at all surprised that this novel won The Red Maple Award in 2010 and that it has been a finalist for a few other awards.
Finally, while I rarely comment on chapter titles, I was always a little amazed by the anagrams that structured the chapter of this book. What starts off as a group of mixed up letters, just like in the game of Scrabble, always transitions into a number of possible words that could be made with some of the letters, and finally ends with all of them being used for the chapter title. Let’s just say that I’m terrible at Scrabble because I can never see the really big word possibilities in my letters. Therefore, the ability to meld form and function in this way is not only clever, but also something that grabbed my attention right away (and I’m sure it’ll grab yours, too).
Buy Word Nerd today, and you’ll see why!