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Let’s face it, readers are at least a little bit geeky.  And I don’t mean you Opera Book Club, Joyce Carol Oates, or Nora Roberts fans (I continue to slam them, knowing there is no chance they are reading this right now).  I mean real readers of real books. You know, the kind who read (or write) a book blog. 

That geekiness doesn’t always have to be a bad thing.  I began liking to read because in my early elementary school years the readers were the smart kids.  And I very much wanted to be one of the smart kids, especially when I learned in the 3rd grade what “straight A’s” meant. What started out as purely academic and competitive turned into something more.  I got hooked on all the wonderful stories out there. 

As I got older and being smarter made me less popular I hung onto reading (which, it needs to be said, my peers were dropping it as fast as they could to become “cool” or a reasonable facsimile) because it is a solitary but never lonely activity.  It’s an excuse to be alone with your thoughts and a clearly identifiable activity which doesn’t make you (that) weird.  Parents don’t hound you for reading too much.  You can opt out of the latest innane schoolyard game quietly and without embarrassment by sitting on the grass with a new volume. If you’re home on a Saturday night you’ve always got something to do.

If you’re reading others don’t hang out with you because they think you are too smart for them (and therefore boring) , not necessarily because you’re a loser.   Or they call you “bookish” which sounds suspiciously like a compliment given to less social, but reading kids.  In school the smart kids are somehow allowed more leeway in the social awkwardness category (actually in life, for those of you who have ever met a brilliant but painfully awkward MIT grad).  There’s at least one positive thing about you – usually a way to get homework copied, or the answers on a test.   

Or it’s possible that these are all the reasons I’ve constructed to make my inner geek feel better. 

The Worst Years of Your Lifeis subtitled Stories for the Geeked-out, Angst-Ridden, Lust-Addled and Deeply Misunderstood Adolescent in All of Us.  I wouldn’t argue with that.  I don’t think anyone survives that phase of life untouched. 

Those of us with more outer than inner geeks are the ones who will pick up this book.  I would think those that have blossomed into secure, stable adults (is there such a thing, yeah I know of at least one) would not want to relive such a time.  I thought to find snippets of my own experience in this book of short stories.  However I was pleasantly surprised to find a vast amount of experiences that, though they matched the emotional  tone and quality of my own life, were oftentimes surprisingly different.  There are stories of boys who do dirty things with dolls, with their neighbor’s mentally challenged daughter, and with each other.  There are girls who slash their best friends face, have sex with their boyfriends in the bathroom at school and do a multitude of drugs while hanging out with homeless older men.  This collection, I would dare to say, covers the wide and wild range of adolescent experiences.  You will find yourself in there somewhere and likely you’ll find all your friends too. 

While the stories themselves are emotionally charged, it’s fortunately quite easy to keep a safe distance.  They are, after all, just words on a page.  Made up tales by someone else and not meant to leave a residue.  In some cases, even your own inner geek can look at someone else’s inner geek and go “well, that’s just crazy!”  and thus feel a little better about yourself.  These stories are both inclusive and exclusive and like a high school student warily eyeing up his peers, the reader can pick and choose which ones to delve into and which ones to run quickly away from.