Review: The Summer I Became a Nerd by Leah Rae Miller

I received this book for free from YA Books Central in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Summer I Became a Nerd by Leah Rae MillerThe Summer I Became a Nerd by Leah Rae Miller
Published by Entangled Teen on May 7, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Humor, Romance
Pages: 258
Format: Paperback
Source: YA Books Central
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one-half-stars

On the outside, seventeen-year-old Madelyne Summers looks like your typical blond cheerleader—perky, popular, and dating the star quarterback. But inside, Maddie spends more time agonizing over what will happen in the next issue of her favorite comic book than planning pep rallies with her squad. That she’s a nerd hiding in a popular girl's body isn’t just unknown, it's anti-known. And she needs to keep it that way.

Summer is the only time Maddie lets her real self out to play, but when she slips up and the adorkable guy behind the local comic shop’s counter uncovers her secret, she’s busted. Before she can shake a pom-pom, Maddie’s whisked into Logan’s world of comic conventions, live-action role-playing, and first-person-shooter video games. And she loves it. But the more she denies who she really is, the deeper her lies become…and the more she risks losing Logan forever.

From the moment I saw this title, I was super excited to read The Summer I Became a Nerd. I mean, hello, as a person who enjoys nerddom, this ought to be a delight full of references and nerdy boys. Personally, I’m a bit less into comics, the main nerdy thing Maddie’s into, but I’m all about anime, graphic novels, manga, manhwa, kdrama, and reading hundreds of books a year, which all fall nicely into the nerd category. The Summer I Became a Nerd is a fun book, but was weighted down for me due to the obnoxious protagonist.

Maddie loves comic books, but keeps that part of herself hidden. Why? Well, in junior high, she dressed up like a character from a comic book on Halloween and everyone made fun of her. Listen, I’ve been picked on, and it sucks. I do seriously sympathize with this. However, that doesn’t make Maddie’s actions any more explicable. She spends all of her time with people she doesn’t care one iota about, most especially her boyfriend, Eric, who she mostly forgets exists. I mean, sure, you want to be popular, but does that really necessitate making out with some guy you don’t like for months?

Setting aside the fact that being into comic books really isn’t all that nerdy anymore, since superhero movies outperform pretty much everything else at the theaters now, Maddie’s commitment to hiding her nerdiness goes to far. She has a huge crush on this adorkable boy, Logan, but doesn’t ever talk to him for fear that she’ll be found out. Actually, she’s had a big crush on him for YEARS, but, hey, let’s keep dating the brainless jock because social status. Like, omigod, the chearleader like totally has to be like hooking up with a football player or like chaos will reign.

The real nail in the coffin that represents my ability to like Maddie was how completely airheaded she is. When going to the comic shop to buy a comic that was only released in print, she goes undercover, by which I mean puts on her sunglasses and a sweatshirt. Then she is completely astounded that Logan, the cute nerd boy who has class with her, figures out who she is. Dude, who are you, Maddie? Clark Kent? And did I mention that her undercover sweatshirt is bright yellow? Can you possibly stand out MORE, girl? Maddie just does not come across as a particularly bright character. She never has clever retorts and has to be coached through her big awesome scenes at the end by Logan’s mom (who is fantastic).

In general, actually, the dialog and writing really lacked in that snap that make everything feel real and emotionally resonant. For example, the weird swear words used by Logan’s friend Dan should have been hilarious, but they fell flat. The characters are almost to a person not well-rounded.  The best-developed character is probably Logan’s mother, who used to be a cheerleader, but proudly owns her love for LARPing and comics. The teenagers are all so shallow, at best able to still be friends with Maddie as a nerd. Mostly their heads all just seem so empty. Dan’s basically a walking stereotype, unable to say a single sentence without nerding out. Logan’s ex, Kelsey, is evil and terrible, as is Rayann, who’s been trying to steal Maddie’s BFF.

However, there are good things if you can see past Maddie, which I only could to some degree. Logan truly is a sweet love interest, and I basically want to give him all the good things. This poor kid is a magnet for girls who do not respect him. He takes Maddie on an awesome date and is generally one of the nicest guys in YA. Of course, Maddie doesn’t deserve him, but oh well.

The parts that actually worked for me were the LARPing, Logan’s family, and the rescue of the small local businesses. For those who don’t know, LARP stands for Live Action Role Play, which is sort of like Dungeons & Dragons, only you are the character. I’ve played D&D but never LARPed, so it was fun to read about. Logan’s mom is totally the best, but his little sister Vera is pretty cute. They’re a rambunctious family, and all about grand gestures and having fun. Actually, Maddie’s parents are decent too, and the book gets points for having involved, caring parents. Anyway, Maddie teams up with Logan’s mom to try to prove that she’s worthy of him after generally being the worst, and comes up with a plan to help out local businesses, like his family’s struggling comic book shop. That’s a really nice message, if a little bit much when back to back with ANOTHER grand gesture to win his love.

Sadly, The Summer I Became a Nerd didn’t end up being my cup of cocoa. I actually had a higher rating initially, but as I wrote my review had to lower it, because a lot of this book frustrated and saddened me. I think its heart is in the right place, but the execution left a lot to be desired. I really hope that teen nerd girls who read it are moved by the message and proudly embrace their love of comic books or korean dramas or anime or whatever. Take the guilt out of guilty pleasures, everyone!

Favorite Quote:

“‘It’s not just high school. People are going to judge you for all kinds of reasons for the rest of your life. Because you vote one way or the other, because you go to one school or the other, because you look a certain way. It’s a fact of life: you can’t make everyone happy. But you can make you happy.'”

Tl;dr – Book in a GIFfy:

nerd fail

6 responses to “Review: The Summer I Became a Nerd by Leah Rae Miller”

  1. Well said, I struggled with Maddie a bit as well. I do agree and remember really enjoying Logan and his family dynamic. My biggest issue with the book was that I thought the overall plot was pretty bland though, not crazy plot twists or surprises. It was fairly predictable which was a bit of a turn off.

  2. I most definitely was not in love with one either. I didn’t hate it, but there was definitely no wow factor. I completely understand what you mean about the reason for Maddie hiding her nerdy tendencies as being ridiculous. I mean, it happened in junior high!

    I also was not a big fan of the whole big gesture at the end. Ugh, I find stuff like that so ridiculous.
    Quinn @ Quinn’s Book Nook recently posted…Review: Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa DareMy Profile

  3. LOL at that GIF.

    You know, I actually really liked The Summer I Became A Nerd, but the circumstances allowed it. I read it on the bus to BEA so like I was in the mood for something that required zero brain power and I don’t know, I wasn’t thinking too hard so it just worked for me.

    Great points though, especially about going undercover and being Clark Kent! LOLOLOLOLOL.
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  4. Bonnie says:

    …she goes undercover to buy comic books. Good grief. Maddie truly sounds like a moron and even if there were good things about this book, I doubt I’d be able to overlook her and all her ridiculous-ness. This one did sound potentially cute (although I never cared for that cover) but sorry it was a disappointment. Glad to know more about this book now though! So that I can stay away. lol
    Bonnie recently posted…Something To Look Forward To – Week of March 31st, 2014My Profile

  5. LOL that gif!

    I have this one and I’m pretty excited for it, but does sounds like Maddie takes being a closet geek too far. I’m still excited to see the LARPing though, so we’ll see. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it as much as you wanted
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  6. Ian Wood says:

    This was a great review, but the more reviews I read, even negative ones, the more I want to check this one out for myself! How weird is that?

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