Wednesday, July 22, 2009

NERDS: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society by Michael Buckley, illustrated by Ethen Beavers

Ok. You have your average nerd/secret society story. Outcast kids turn out to be amazingly cool, band together, save the world, and totally destroy the popular kids. Or just never see them again. And we all learn a VERY IMPORTANT LESSON.

And then you have NERDS: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society. It starts out with all the stereotypes: geeky kids who don't fit in because they lack social skills or have physical issues or are just weird. Super cool kids who torment the nerds. Slick, professional secret agent sent to take charge of their secret government operation. Evil/crazy villain and stunningly beautiful henchwoman (well, really goon but she's kinda sensitive about that).

And then....Michael Buckley takes all these elements and turns it into something completely different.

About Michael Buckley. I skimmed part of a Sisters Grimm book several years ago. But as I was currently involved in skimming HUNDREDS of books to create fantasy bibliographies for the School of Education library at UIUC (You can see them here if you're interested) it didn't really sink in. Over the past couple months, I've had a small but steady stream of kids "where's the Sisters Grimm?" "Why don't you have all of them?" Leading me to add the rest of the series to my "series to fill in when money falls on my head out of the sky" list.

And then, ALA. The very first publisher I happened upon was Abrams. And there was Lauren Myracle! And she was signing books! And I thought, SUMMER READING PRIZE! And then I noticed another book, with kinda a cool cover, and thought, "oh, I'll get that one too." Then I took a closer look, "oh, it's that guy the kids keep talking about. Cool, I'll get an autograph, and tell him how much the kids like his books."
So I added it to my giant stack and staggered home. Yesterday evening, after an exhausting day of programs, shelving (my aide is out of town) and just STUFF. I sat down for cartoons and a book. And this one happened to be on top of my pile.

So, back to the book. As I was saying, before I digressed into la-la-land (hey, it was a REALLY LONG DAY), this is an exuberant, explosive book. Literally! It explodes conventions. It explodes scientists. It even explodes guinea pigs! It shakes up ideas about bullies, popularity, nerds, and beauty pageants. It has tons of exciting action, cool gadgets, weird superpowers, and suitably malicious villains. Kids aren't just nerds, bullies, secret agents, or assassins. They're Who sometimes learn how to change and grow....and sometimes don't. Buckley has even managed to make the adults believable and dimensional characters. And it's got hilarious little inserts between each chapter!

And....*drumroll please*'s got guinea pigs! Yes! Woot!

Verdict: Fans of the Benedict Society, Kiki Strike, Joshua Mowll, Catherine Jinks' Evil Genius, David Lubar's Talent books, and all things gadgety, secret societish, and geekly, will be thrilled to read this! And if not....we're WATCHING you. Squeak!

ISBN: 978-0810943247; Published September 2009 by Abrams; ARC provided by publisher at ALA 2009; Purchased for the library; Added to my personal wishlist

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