First-time novelist Kizer launches a projected YA series with this occasionally witty tale of 15-year-old Gert Garibaldi. She's a Brain (smart kid) struggling to fit into her high school world filled with Pops (popular kids), Giggles (trendy kids), and Things (bad boys/jocks). Best friend Adam serves as Gert's lifeline and confidant, until he meets a cute boy and drops her like a hot potato. With no one to help her cope with some cringeworthy parenting and two burgeoning crushes, the sarcastic Gert flounders before pouring her heart into a diary. Titling entries either rants or raves, Gert's writings on random topics humorously showcase her angst. However, these entries crop up somewhat abruptly throughout the narrative, often breaking its flow. The author also endows Gert with a fascination with sex and her body, which at first makes her seem real and representative of the target audience, but later goes too far, so that Gert sounds almost fixated. When appraising her appearance in the mirror, Gert says in a panic, "Mts. Everest and Kilimanjaro squished together are less conspicuous than my ass . . . . I have the world's largest tush. I require a UN escort for international travel. Maybe even NATO." Younger teen readers will relate to Gert's insecurity and to her typical troubles, but even they may tire of her self-obsessed ramblings. Ages 14-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Gertrude Doyle Garibaldi, aka "Gert," is a precocious tenth grader stuck in the middle of high school agony with a lot of questions and experiences to be had. Everyone falls into some category in Gert's world. Adam, Gert's best friend, is gay (but not out); Adam is in love with Tim; and Gert is in love with Tim's twin brother, Lucas. But Gert is a "brain" and Lucas is a "pops" (popular kid). Gert explores her high school world of social stratification, tries to navigate the budding romance between Adam and Tim (and tries not to be too jealous of their newfound love,) agonizingly passes her driving test, and starts to figure out how to make it through life. Although the book is aimed at those "12 and up," some of Gert's wonderings and rants might be safer in the hands of teens who are a little bit older. She refers to men as "the penis people," curiously navigates her own first experiences with masturbation, tries to decide whether to "tame the wild beast or not" (if she should cut her pubic hair), and explores her own "Maya" with a handheld mirror. The book has chapters, but Gert inserts her own rants and raves, making it appear more diary-like. The rants become overwhelming and tiring by the book's conclusion. Although high school is agony for many teens, Kizer presses Gert's frustrations a little far. The hot pink cover will help sell the book (as will the title), but the writing and the pedantic tone may prevent this book from becoming a "best ever." Reviewer: Ria Newhouse
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10- Gert, 15, has a totally original voice, hilarious but so sarcastic and negative that she's sometimes unlikable in the first part of this book. She changes over the course of the novel to someone more balanced, but one has to wonder if readers will stick with her while she gets her act together. She has a gay best friend, Adam, who goes with Tim. Gert has an unrequited crush on Tim's twin, struggles when Adam's relationship overshadows their friendship, and snipes about teachers, cliques, eyebrow plucking, and life in general. Her first-person narrative alternates with her ramblings in script, which will be difficult for reluctant readers to tackle. At first, these cursive sections are random rants but later make more sense in context. "Sorry: tangent" is dropped in every so often to indicate that Gert has gone off the point; the device is distracting and unnecessary. When her health teacher introduces a frank and educational exploration of female genitals, Gert feels better about herself and "her sexual being," and, in turn, everyone else. She finds new friends and a boyfriend, and her self-esteem is no longer dependent on Adam. Gert's self-centeredness limits her impact, and Adam and her boyfriend aren't fully fleshed out. Nobody but Gert, with her opinions, passions, and quirky insights, really matters. And that is problematic enough to make this unique but flawed book an additional purchase.-Tina Zubak, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, PA Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Read an Excerpt
Okay, so here's the deal. My best friend's Adam. Adam Bryant. No, this isn't one of those disgustingly sweet stories about how best friends figure out by senior prom that they're deeply in love and can't live without each other.
Yuck. Has that ever happened in real life? Uh, no. Anyway, Adam likes Tim, so it would never work. I'm a girl, he's a boy, we both like boys, you get the idea.
And no, we're not those two small-town teens who move to the big city to find ourselves at the bottom of a beer can, with an MTV sound track and tons of making out with strangers. We don't fit here, but honestly, can we fit anywhere? I don't know yet. I'll keep you posted.
The point is, I like Tim's twin brother, Lucas. Lucas is in third-period English with me. He's a junior, but I'm a Brain sophomore, so it evens out. We don't really know each other. And he's tight with the in crowd, which means the people he talks to are not the same people I talk to. I mean, if I'm honest, Tim and I have many more conversations than me and Lucas. I say hi in the halls and, if Lucas isn't busy with someone else, he sometimes says hi back. But I'm optimistic. It's only a matter of time before he figures out we're perfect for each other.
English isn't the most romantic place to have a crush. It's not drama, where you can hide in dark costume closets, or bio, where you can snuggle around the Bunsen burner.
You know what I'm talking about.
All you need to know about Mr. Slater's English class is summed up with one visual. He stands at the board, back to the class, and twitches his butt muscles.
One cheek. The other cheek.
Back and forth.
Left and right.
Right and left.
The entire lecture, the entire fifty-eight minutes, is him talking and twitching and all of us trying not to watch the grotesque display. It's a bit like the cobra and the mongoose, although not really, because he doesn't ever turn around to see if we're hypnotized or not.
And, as far as I know, he's never bitten a student. Though if he turned up on Dateline, I wouldn't be one of the people saying, "Oh, we had no idea. He was always so nice and quiet."
The other thing is, we're working on our term paper. (Quarter paper to be accurate, but Mr. Slater doesn't care about accurate.) We're supposed to compare and contrast Edgar Allan Poe and Ernest Hemingway.
I title my paper "The Crackhead and the Suicidal Alkie." Mr. Slater looks over my shoulder, wheezes through his chin-length nose hair and tells me, "That won't do."
No other explanation.
How's that for crappy teaching? Isn't he supposed to be supportive and foster my young mind?
Hello? Show of hands--how many of us in the world are forced to compare old dead guys who obviously tried to work their issues out on the page, and later killed themselves, or overdosed, instead of actually getting therapy? The answer is simple: all high school students. Everywhere.
I mean, if the dead guys couldn't understand what they wrote, why the heck do the rest of us have to try to make sense of it? Have you ever had a conversation with a stoner that was deep and intellectual?
The script goes like this:
Normal nondrugging Brain: 'Scuse me.
(Continue to stand there, and wait for Zoner to move out of the way to the locker room door. Make obvious signals about ticking off seconds until the tardy bell rings.)
(With a glazed slow-mo stare, Zoner notices you standing there. He holds out a self-rolled cig like it's manna. Exaggerated facial expression of devotion.)
Zoner: You want some?
Brain (speaking softly and slowly, as if being stalked by a wild animal): Could you just move? Away from the door?
Zoner (Looks around. Surprise evident on face.): This door?
Brain (Smile, nod. Repeat. Careful to move at the pace of Elmer's glue.): That's the one.
Zoner (said with excitement): Hey, Billy, did you know there's a door there?
Billy: No! (After shouting, Billy dissolves into a pool of unshowered hilarity.)
Zoner (breaking into gales of laughter, barely can be understood): Yeah, man.
Now, why in a hundred years, or even fifty, would I ask future generations to decipher the greatness of the door? I mean, really--let's look at Poe here. Doors, windows, floorboards. Ticking clocks, for heaven's sake.
Hemingway just tried to get gored at every turn. Not hard to do when falling down drunk. But he also fished, so drowning was a theme for him, too.
I really am on the right track. Mr. Slater, being a white man of dubious character, wouldn't understand that. Breathe, Gert. Breathe.
Lucas sits one row, one desk up.
He has the most adorable curl of dark chocolate on the back of his neck. Sometimes it hides under his shirt collar, or disappears for a few weeks when his mother insists he get his hair cut, but it's like Punxsutawney Phil and always reappears.
It's a cold autumn, so right now he basically wears jeans, dark denim or slightly worn, hiking boots, hoodies in black or gray and a T-shirt from one of the million soccer camps he's been to. He usually has a soccer ball between his feet that he rolls back and forth, in the butt-clenching tempo set by Mr. Slater.
(I'm fairly certain this is a subconscious coincidence and he's not into Mr. Slater's butt or anything. Like I said, mongoose-cobra. It's all hypnotic.)
Lucas occasionally smiles at me. Like yesterday when we did this ridiculous alliteration with our names. I'm Gert. Gertrude Doyle Garibaldi, to be all official.
Yeah, nice to meet you, too.
My parents were shocked by my arrival, not like they didn't have nine months to get used to the idea. They don't appreciate when I point this out. It's not as if the stork dropped me off. But they missed the memo on gestation. See, my mom was forty-five when she found out she was pregnant, and my dad sixty.
My brother, Mike, graduated from college that spring. I guess I can see why they were surprised.
In momentary astonishment that's lasted sixteen years and counting, they had a complete loss of sense when they named me. Either that, or they'd forgotten what it was like to be a kid, and picked the ugliest name on the planet just to see what kinds of hell a name can conjure.
They were too far removed from kidland, even from thirtiesville, to realize that Heather or Jessica or Amanda would have been much better choices.
But hello? Gertrude? The shock excuse only goes so far to get them off the hook. The worst part is, it's not even a family name. There's no reason at all they had to name me Gertrude.
I'm breathing. In. Out.
From the Hardcover edition.