In case the name of the podcast didn't tip you off, I am kind of a nerd. When the opportunity came up to read an ARC of The Wrong Kind of Weird by James Ramos and the description says that the main character is a member of the Geeks and Nerds United club, I snatched up the opportunity faster than my middle school bullies could call me a nerd.
Cameron Carson is a member of the Geeks and Nerds United (G.A.N.U.) club at school. Karla Ortega is student body president and all around popular girl. They belong to two different social circles - ones that kind of hate each other. During the summer before their senior year begins, they find themselves working at a local coffee shop together and one thing leads to another. What was supposed to be just a summer fling becomes something more as the two continue to sneak around during the school year. As Cameron tries to find a way to ingratiate himself with Karla's friends and make it more "appropriate" for the two to publicly date, he finds himself drawn to newcomer Mackenzie Briggs, who isn't afraid to be herself no matter what others think of her.
The nerd representation in this book was amazing. There were debates about manga vs. anime and, subsequently, subbed vs. dubbed anime. At one point, a character goes off on a tangent about the Hand Flex Scene (capitalization added by the author, not me, but I agree with it) from 2005's Pride & Prejudice starring Keira Knightley (if you know, you know). It felt like I was once again sitting and listening to my bestie go on and on about why it was the superior adaptation of the novel based on that one scene alone.
This novel was dedicated to the geeks, nerds, and dorks and it really shows. It read like a love letter to those who felt like outcasts growing up because of their love of all things fandom. To put the cherry on top, most (if not all, my memory storage is at a -10gb since having a kid) of the characters were people of color. As someone who grew up in a community and went to a school where people of color were the majority, it was so incredibly relatable and brought such nostalgia.
For anyone who grew up being bullied for the things they loved (or are currently being bullied), The Wrong Kind of Weird is the kind of story that will help you heal and will empower you to be unapologetically loud about the things you hold dear. As Cameron navigates the social ladder of high school, he slowly and unconsciously learns about the things that actually matter - in the grand scheme of life as well as to him personally. He finds himself swept up in the exhilaration of being in this secret relationship and tries to change himself to fit into a mold that wasn't made for him. When he finally reaches the other side of the whirlwind, it hits in a way that makes you want to travel back in time, throw this book at your younger self, and sit there until they finish reading it so you can save yourself some of the pain to come.
I have next to zero complaints about this beautiful coming of age story. Each of the characters had their distinct personalities, all the relationships were complex and fleshed out, and even the "bad guys" (for lack of a better term) were characters that I cared about. I honestly spent the majority of the time while I was reading wishing that the author was my friend in real life. My only complaint is a brief moment where they dissed oatmeal raisin cookies and I wanted to throw hands, but overall, I really just wanna be besties with them. James, if you are reading this, LET'S BE FRIENDS! (I promise not to bring you oatmeal raisin cookies - mostly because I will have already eaten them all.)
The Wrong Kind of Weird by James Ramos is available for preorder now and will hit shelves January 3, 2023.