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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Another Excellent Nerd Book

Being a nerd myself, I'll admit that I like a good nerd book.  You know the kind -- some kid who gets picked on for loving to learn and for being different in some way ends up finding out a way to come out on top. The Harry Potter books fit in this category.  Same with a lot of Daniel Pinkwater, John Green, Ellen Klages, Shannon Hale, and M.T. Anderson's books.
     Now I can add Meg Wolitzer's new book (2011) The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman to the list above.  Duncan Dorfman has a lot of strikes against him from the start.  He is the new kid in his high school.  He lives in an apartment with his single mother who works at the local Thriftee Mike's Warehouse -- where she purchases all his clothes -- so he will always look dorky.  During the first week of school, someone sticks some greasy lunchmeat to his back as he walks through the cafeteria line.  The meat sticks there for a while, leading his fellow students to nickname him "Lunchmeat" -- which also sticks.  He has one friend, who talks incessantly about videogames.  In short, Duncan Dorfman is a hopeless nerd.

     Then two things happen to Duncan.  First, he discovers that his left hand somehow has the ability to read print in total darkness.  A power which his mother does not seem surprised to learn he has -- and she wants him not to tell anyone he has it.  Second, when Duncan is showing his only friend Andrew what he can do, an athletic bullly-turned-scrabble-addict named Carl, who is sitting at the next table overhears, sees the possibiliites of such a power in a game that involves drawing letters blindly from a bag, and before he knows what is happening, Duncan finds himself bullied into being Carl's partner for the regional scrabble tournement.
     The journey that follows involles Duncan wrestling with his conscience, meeting other nerds, and discovering some amazing things about himself he didn't know.  In the end, he seems to accept and value his nerdiness (one of my most important criteria in a good nerd book).  You should read it. 

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