Friday, November 11, 2011

Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen

This is a guest post
by Cheryl Hannah
Twelve-year-old Ambrose is a misfit. He has a life-threatening peanut allergy, a knack for Scrabble, and an overprotective mum. She “was this close to being a normal mom,” but then his dad died. While Ambrose understands why she worries he might lift up the toilet seat, “fall in, and drown,” and understands why she makes him watch the Stranger Danger video “twenty thousand times,” and understands why she pulled him from public school to enrol him in correspondence school, he’s desperate to find a friend.

Ambrose and his mom live in Kitsilano, in the basement apartment of a nice old Greek couple, the Economopouloses. It’s right on the bus route to UBC, where Ambrose’s mum works as a sessional lecturer. Then, one day, the Economopouloses’ son Cosmo shows up on the doorstep, fresh out of jail

How Ambrose’s mum learns to relax (a bit) and find happiness, how Cosmo gets his life back, and how Ambrose joins the West Side Scrabble Club, gains self esteem, and—finally—makes a new friend …

Word Nerd is written from the first-person viewpoint of Ambrose. It's well crafted—following a classic three act structure—with realistically observed settings and beautifully drawn, contemporary characters. It's tender. It's funny. It's also, at times, a poignant portrayal of how hard life must be for a boy like Ambrose. Ambrose, it would seem, is mildly autistic.

As well as chronicling the adventures and misadventures of Ambrose, Word Nerd is a love story to the arcane world of competitive Scrabble and its idiosyncratic denizens. It's also a love story to Kitsilano, a neighbourhood on the west side of Vancouver. If you've ever spent some time in and around Kitsilano, you'll swear you've seen Ambrose, walking home from Jericho Beach, wearing his favourite purple cords from Value Village, or maybe even Cosmo Economopoulos, swinging his beat-up '91 Camaro off West 7th onto Alma.

My only quibble is with the ending: it's a bit rushed, and it ties things up a bit too neatly. But honestly, by the time you reach it, you'll have fallen in love with all the characters Susin Nielsen has created, and be willing to overlook this minor flaw. I highly recommend the book. Word Nerd was nominated for "Book of the Year for Children" by the Canadian Library Association in 2008 and for "Best Canadian Read" by the Indigo Book & Music Teen Read Awards in 2010.

Copy source: unknown
Genre: young adult
Format: unknown

Cheryl Hannah is an editor, designer, and self-confessed magazine junkie. While she can't imagine life without her digital arsenal, she remains unabashedly fond of paper-based publications: books; magazines; even, on weekends, the newspaper.

No comments:

Post a Comment