I’ve decided that if given the chance, I wouldn’t want to meet most of my favourite authors. My reason? I’d be worried that the person behind a most-loved book would disappoint me. I’d rather imagine said god-like person as brilliant / funny / clever / extraordinary, keeping him or her in a state of perfection in my mind, even though I know that’s probably not real. How many authors of great books can be as cool as their books? Could J.K. Rowling be as awesome as her stories? Hard to imagine. (Okay. I’d probably meet J.K. if I had the chance. C’mon. Who wouldn’t?)
But Lisa Yee. I would meet Lisa Yee in a heartbeat, mostly because she seems HILARIOUS and a little crazy – good crazy. Also because I would like to meet Peepy and have my picture taken with Peepy. (This is Peepy). Lisa’s books are this fantastic combo of smart and true and funny. Heartwarming is a good word, but I mean that in the coolest possible way – think quirky and insightful indie flick, not Hallmark Movie of the Week weeper. Yee’s stories impress me because they manage to balance a light tone with thematic complexity. They’re really well constructed too. She’s a pro.
Warp Speed is the fourth title in a series featuring the same setting and characters, each time told from a different kid’s point of view. This time, it’s seventh grade and the main character is a character who appeared only briefly in one of the earlier books. Marley Sandelski is a nerd. He’d admit it. He is an outcast who loves Star Trek and hanging around with his equally geeky friends from AV club. In some ways, he’s okay with who he is, but like many kids his age he also longs to be accepted by the cool crowd. Marley faces horrible bullying for being different. The only good thing about this scenario is that he discovers his amazing talent for running. This ability turns out to play a key role in Marley finding his way from invisible to invincible.
Yee crafts a complex picture of what it means to be bullied day after day after day. She succeeds in convincing us just how isolating it is to feel victimized and unnoticed. It’s sad and true that Marley really does try to just get on with his life, to cope, to keep his head down, and to struggle through it. I liked that this story counters some of the typically held opinions about victims of bullying: they have no friends (Marley has friends); they have messed up family lives (Marley’s home life is fantastic). The resolution to the bullying felt a bit too good to be true for me, but it wasn’t impossible to believe. This book is made for reading groups. And all readers actually.
In case you’re not convinced yet, here is the author speaking Klingon:
Just say it. Now you want to meet her too.
Warp Speed is published by Arthur A. Levine Books.
This post is cross-posted at Guys lit Wire.