Monday, November 30, 2009

So Yesterday

Biblio Bits So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld, Penguin Group, 2004 (ISBN 159514000X)

Reading Level/Interest Age 770 lexile/Ages13+

Genre Realistic Fiction, Mystery

Plot Summary
At the top of the Cool Pyramid are the Innovators, like the first person who made fingerless gloves awesome instead of something that a hobo would wear. Then the innovation trickles down to the Trendsetters, the Early Adopters, the Consumers (by which time the innovation is no longer cool), and finally to the Laggards (still sporting their mullets and feathered hair). Hunter is definitely a Trendsetter and he is also a cool-hunter for new innovations; he works for a big, name-brand company and attends cool tastings (focus groups) to give his opinion on what will and won't fly. He meets Jen, an Innovator, and together they begin to pursue the coolest shoes they've ever seen, possibly a bootleg. The shoes are tied up with some other mysterious events occurring among Manhattan's elite and Jen and Hunter go undercover to see what they can find out. Someone is out to challenge the status quo and the Cool Pyramid may be about to tumble down.

Critical Evaluation
So, so cool. And clever. Westerfeld has written a book that raises questions about our consumer culture, aimed at the very audience who is one of the most prime (and fastest growing) targets. This is a book that packs a big message in a cleverly-plotted and fast-paced story. Westerfeld inserts many pop-culture references, yet without naming names; teens will appreciate the currency and the puzzle of figuring out what's being referred to. There is some romance that develops between Jen and Hunter, but Jen remains an enigma that Hunter has trouble fully understanding. But that's what happens when you're an Innovator, people don't always "get" you. Overall, this was a quick and fun read that left me with a lot to think about.

Reader's Annotation
You know where you are on the Cool Pyramid. But the bastion of Cool is about to be radically challenged by a group with an unusual agenda; Hunter and Jen are on the trail to discover who's behind the mystery of the coolest shoes they've ever seen.

Author Information
Scott Westerfeld was born in 1963 in Dallas (TX) and grew up there, Connecticut, and California. He obtained his B.A. in Philosophy at Vassar College and attended NYU for one year to work on graduate study in Performance Studies. He has written science fiction books for adults and youth, and has ghost-written several books. Westerfeld's latest book for young adults is called Leviathan (2009). He and his wife split their time between Sydney, Australia and New York City (summers only). (Information for this author biography is from his official site.)

Challenge issues
Some swearing, and examination/critique of consumer culture in America (which could offend consumers and/or big corporations).

Booktalking Ideas
I would love to put this in a booktalk called "No More Status Quo" (or maybe something more catchy) with other books that feature teens who challenge prevailing ideas and work for change. Other books to include in the booktalk would be Little Brother (Doctorow, 2008), Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment (Patterson, 2005), The Gospel According to Larry (Tashjian, 2001), Hunger Games (Collins, 2008), and Uglies (also Westerfeld, 2005).

Curriculum Ties
Oh so many options for this book. This book should be required reading for 7th and 8th graders! The assignment could be to look at prevailing trends in pop culture (fashion, music, technology, etc.) by examining ads in print, online, and on TV. Students could research the origins of current trends (ugh, pencil-leg jeans are back from the 80s), or identify references to other trends or media (such as sampling, in music). We'd all like to think we're Innovators, but most of us are not. Where do we each fit into the Cool Pyramid?

Why this book?
Because it's clever and takes a big whack at the consumer life-style we all live in. It's always good to have your ideas questioned!

Victorian Premier's Literary Awards, Prize for Young Adult Fiction.

Rockport Public Library owns?

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