Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out Of a Tree, by Lauren Tarshis

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a TreeEmma-Jean is very logical; she’s Data logical, Spock logical. Now, if Data had to be a middle-school-girl, his head would immediately explode from the sheer illogicality. Luckily for Emma-Jean, she’s a little bit too dense, too insulated from the viciousness of middle school, to really understand her own social status. (This feels realistic to me; at least, it mirrors my own middle school experiences). So Emma-Jean is odd and happy in her oddness until she comes upon Colleen Pomerantz crying in the bathroom, and decides to solve her problem by application of logic (and also Quark XPress; one wonders how Emma-Jean, who certainly would never stoop to software piracy, got such an expensive program, but we shall disregard that for the moment). It seems to work; it seems to work too well. Emma-Jean sets herself to solving more people’s problems.

I started the book ready to dislike it, to rather deeply dislike it. I just feel like there’s nearly no juvenile/young-adult literature that really understands nerd girls, and Emma-Jean’s voice did not feel real to me. It felt overly studied and somewhat contrived. She reminded me too much of a sitcom character rather than an actual girl. But then – well, I started to like Emma-Jean. Maybe I never believed in her voice, but I started to believe in her. Then all of a sudden I started crying. This isn’t always an endorsement; it’s more an indication of my own sentimentality than the book’s merits. But in this case, I don’t think there was anything sentimental about the sadness in the ending; it was a matter of the author slowly, carefully, building up a character and her reality until her feelings seemed as true as mine.

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