Review: ‘The Summer I Became a Nerd’ by Leah Rae MillerPosted: May 26, 2016
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.
I can’t remember how I stumbled across this book, but I know that I bought it for the title — because obviously! Maddie’s a different variety of geek/nerd than I am; I’ve only got a handful of comics and graphic novels, and those I got as an adult. Logan’s geek experience is a lot closer to mine.
Yes, I have LARPed. I’ve never thrown ping pong balls at anyone, though. :p
This explanation is my way of saying that some parts of Maddie’s experience getting to know Logan and his world are eerily familiar to me. But other parts of her world are very unfamiliar, mostly the “American teenager” thing. Maddie is pretty much pathological about keeping her secret identity as a geek, well, secret, basically because she’s worried about toppling from the top of the popularity tree. Maybe time has fuzzed my memories of high school; maybe in Australia it’s a different social structure; or maybe because I was never popular I never realised how much those girls had to work to stay there. But I found the whole thing a bit baffling. Maddie’s woes are definitely self-inflicted, and at times I lost patience with her because of it.
That being said, I quite liked her voice when she wasn’t having a pity party, and I definitely liked Logan and the fact he and his hilariously brash best friend, Dan, don’t put up with her trying to keep them in the role of dirty secret. Logan is a bit of a teenage dreamboat for the geek set; his parents own a comic book and he’s snagged himself a summer radio show at the local college. I also liked what we saw of Terra, Maddie’s country-music-loving best friend; she’s another one who doesn’t take Maddie’s crap lying down.
I enjoyed spotting the various nerdy references, some of which were made up for the story (I assume; see previous comment about not having read that many comics) but some of which were real-world references. The romance between Logan and Maddie is sweet. The plot is a tiny bit predictable, but The Summer I Became a Nerd was a fun read and easily digestible, with a very clear “be true to yourself” message.