Book Review – Word Nerd

Title: Word Nerd
Author: Susin Nielson
Format: Hardback
Published: 2008

So, I thought about starting off this review by saying that I am not this book’s target audience, but I doubt that I’m the target audience for most of the stuff I read.  And really, since it’s technically a children’s book, I’m pretty sure you know by now that I’m not some 11 yr old girl (I am still holed up in my room with the stuffed animal I sleep with, but that’s a different argument altogether).

ANYWAY.  Word Nerd follows around Ambrose Bukowski, a self-described word nerd, only child, and peanut-allergy sufferer.  He’s named after his dad, who died before he was born, and as a result, he hops around Canada with his mother, a professor who moved whenever the going get tough, or she didn’t get tenure.

The book starts out with the school bullies slipping Ambrose a peanut in his sandwich.  Predictably, it almost kills him, and the result is that Ambrose ends up home schooled while his mother teaches at night.  While all that is happening, he’s becoming friends with the neighbor – Cosmo Economopolous – who showed up unnanounced after leaving prison.   He coerces Cosmo to take him to Scrabble Club instead.

So… Uh.   I’m sorry, but the plot of the book reads sort of like a NaNoWriMo dare.  I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing, but it’s just odd.  “Let’s kill the dad off in utero so he’s out of the picture…  Let’s go to scrabble club… Let’s pick some random medical issue… Let’s… “   I’m not saying it’s a bad thing per sey, but most of what happened in the story is defintely stuff that seems peculiar.  Most pre-teen boys aren’t gung ho about something like Scrabble Club, for instance.

That said, the book is written well enough, (although I wish it weren’t first person, bcause it’d would be so much stronger if it wasn’t), albeit predictable (although, again, I’m about 25 years beyond their target audience, so it might be better if I were).

I also had issues with the alphabet soup type of last name that the upstairs neighbors had.  Ambrose usually called them Mr. & Mrs. E, but every time the author said the whole last name, it pulled me out of the book entirely because your eye kind of trips over it on the page.


In the end, even though it was a silly premise, I thought it was well enough written, especially the scene with the mother in the car when she finds out about Scrabble club.  The chapter headers are single words but arranged so you’re making words out of a strimg of letters, and that was a cute touch.  I did feel that a few of the characters talked down to Ambrose a bit, which was annoying because it was his freakin’ story, but I’ll give it a pass for the reading level this book is written at.

In the end, I was looking for a simple read that I could finish in a hurry, and I did finish this in an hour or two on the couch one night.  That in mind, I’ll actually give it a tentative four out of five pages.  If you’re the book’s target audience, go ahead and grab it.  If you’re beyond that point, though, you may not enjoy it quite as much.

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