Susin Nielsen, is a YA author that truly owns my bank account. Whenever she releases a new book, I never hesitate to buy her work. She creates books with characters that you can laugh at, with and truly resonate with them and their quirkiness.
In Word Nerd, that is exactly what we get when we follow Ambrose’s journey of accepting his weird and quirky side. The side that nearly got him killed by school bullies.
With a deadly peanut allergy, a tendency to say what is on his mind and his unique fashion choices, Ambrose has been struggling to fit into his new school. So, one day at lunch when the school’s notorious group of jerks approach Ambrose and attempt to befriend him, Ambrose is more than willing to comply and close his eyes and join their game. He realises a little too late that they slipped a peanut into his sandwich and left him on the ground alone, and struggling to breathe. Whilst he recovers, he decides to take the higher ground, and not be angry about it. There had to be a logical explanation as to why they just tried to kill him right?
Ambrose’ mother, single, overprotective, and struggling with work,is livid. In her rage, she pulls him from the regular school system and enrolls him into home schooling, with technical assistance from the school. This now means that she has to be more lenient in letting Ambrose be home alone, as her work hours conflict. With this new found freedom, Ambrose does all the things he was never previously allowed, including watching tv until late, snooping around his mother’s bedroom, and talking to the landlords criminal son.
Ambrose strikes up an unlikely friendship with Cosmo, who was previously released from prison, and trying to find a fresh new start. With a mutual love of Scrabble, Ambrose convinces Cosmo to try out a local scrabble club. There, Ambrose finds the sense of security and acceptance he longs for in his School and home life. Whereas Cosmo finds an even more unlikely friendship, accepting of his past.
With the friendship growing stronger, it doesn’t take long for the deceit to begin either. Ambrose begins planning his scrabble dates around his mother’s schedule, especially as taking self defence lessons from a former prisoner, would give his mother an anuerism.
The plotline is humorous whilst still tackling common and uncomfortable issues. It explores the meaning and importance of friendships, honesty and Knock off Nikes. The characters are all sworn to their individuality, and compliment each other perfectly. We have Annoyingly curious Ambrose striking a friendship with reformed and irritable Cosmo, which in any world, would not work, but in this fictional one, ties the bow of the book together.
We see the breakdown of stereotypes with someone as young as Ambrose seeing Cosmo as more than just a violent thug with a chequered past, and we see Cosmo accept the nerdy sides of Ambrose that are repeatedly ridiculed.
I finished this book in one sitting and couldn’t wait to read it all over again and experience the warmth that radiates from it, it truly is simple yet effective. A great story for children Ambrose’ age to learn from.
12 year old Ambrose Bukowski truly is the friendless nerd we all need in our lives.