HarperTrophy, 2000. 978-0-06-024867-3
Synopsis: Jerry Flack has just moved to Spencer Falls and is determined to start over. This means he’s going to ditch his dorky ways and make himself into one of the cool kids – studying fashion magazines, buying hair products, making his wardrobe more cool, practicing a cool guy swagger, even getting into rollerblading and guitar playing. But Jerry’s debut as a cool kid results in a lot of lies. Lies Jerry isn’t sure he can keep track of and still maintain his image without looking like a dork. He’s about to find out just how hard being popular can be being a dork in disguise.
Why I picked it up: I am a dork. Well, actually, more of a nerd/geek…neek, if you will. But I like stories about weirdos like me.
Why I finished it: Jerry is quirky, funny, and tries too hard, but it’s an accurate representation of dorks trying to fit in with the cool kids. I don’t remember middle school being quite as exciting as Hawthorne, and I don’t remember the drama either, but I do remember it being a strange transition from being a younger kid to an older kid. The book wasn’t as impactful as Stargirl, which deals with the same topics of individuality and fitting in at school, but I liked that Jerry is struggling with whether to do his own thing or try to be one of the cool kids. His friendship with Brenda is cute and funny, and she is a likable secondary character that helps encourage Jerry. The writing is sparse and simplistic, and I might have liked to see a little more contrast between home and school, but the book is still an enjoyable read despite the fact that it takes a few chapters to get going. Trying to impress people is one thing, but it’s no substitution for being yourself.
Other related materials: Dork on the Run by Carol Gorman; A Midsummer Night’s Dork by Carol Gorman; The Miraculous Makeover of Lizard Flanagan by Carol Gorman; Lizard Flanagan, Supermodel?? by Carol Gorman; Captain Nobody by Dean Pitchford; Ellie McDoodle: New Kid in School by Ruth McNally Barshaw; Frindle by Andrew Clements; Lost and Found by Andrew Clements; Nerd Camp by Elissa Brent Weissman; Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo; Crash by Jerry Spinelli; The Lemonade War series by Jacqueline Davies; Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli; Extra Credit by Andrew Clements; Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald and J.P. Coovert; Powerless by Matthew Cody; Savvy by Ingrid Law