Our Selective Collective book for April was “The Summer I Became a Nerd” by Leah Rae Miller. It was my month to pick the title, and I loved the idea of a cool, popular cheerleader secretly being a geeky comic-book-obsessed “nerd.” In high school, I was in IB, so it was completely normal for my classmates to be obsessed with pop culture. But in some social circles, it would have been considered massively uncool to enjoy foreign films at the local art house theater or wait with baited breath for the latest graphic novel or comic book in the mail. Miller’s sweet but substantive novel explores what it means to spend a summer finding yourself in ways you never expected, and I hope you’ll add it to your list of books to read this summer. Read below for my Q&A with Leah Rae, and then scroll to the bottom for our giveaway! Many thanks to Entangled for sending us all ebooks for review purposes, and of course to Leah Rae Miller for answering our questions!
On the outside, seventeen-year-old Madelyne Summers looks like your typical blond cheerleader—perky, popular, and dating the star quarterback. But inside, Maddie spends more time agonizing over what will happen in the next issue of her favorite comic book than planning pep rallies with her squad. That she’s a nerd hiding in a popular girl’s body isn’t just unknown, it’s anti-known. And she needs to keep it that way.
Summer is the only time Maddie lets her real self out to play, but when she slips up and the adorkable guy behind the local comic shop’s counter uncovers her secret, she’s busted. Before she can shake a pom-pom, Maddie’s whisked into Logan’s world of comic conventions, live-action role-playing, and first-person-shooter video games. And she loves it. But the more she denies who she really is, the deeper her lies become…and the more she risks losing Logan forever.
1. What gave you the idea of writing about a “popular” girl who’s secretly a nerd? It was definitely a lightning bolt of an idea. I wanted to write about something I loved, something that would be fun. “Comic books” was the first thing that popped into my head, but I was tired of the “geeky girl transformed” thing. I wanted something different so I decided to flip that cliche on its ear. The rest of it kind of fell into place.
3. Two of my fellow SC bloggers are from Louisiana and we all agreed that Natchitoches was so vividly described. Did you always want to set the story where you actually live? Are any of the spots mentioned in the book based on real places? Yay, Louisiana pride! I believe location and setting should be a character itself in pretty much every story. I tried my best to do that with TSIBAN. Natchitoches is the place I know best so it was a no-brainer for me when I started writing. I’m lucky to live in such a city. There are a lot of spots mentioned in the book that actually exist or did at one time, most of them, in fact. Specifically, the aquarium and the bowling alley are real. I had a lot of fun working all of my favorite places into the book.
4. My Selective Collective girlfriends and I all fell for Logan nearly immediately. There’s something about smart boys in glasses that makes our hearts speed up. Who are your favorite fictional boyfriends? Oh man… Where do I start? St. Clair and Cricket Bell from Stephanie Perkins’ books. Four from the “Divergent” series. Can I go into other media? Too late, because I’m gonna 😉 The Doctor (specifically Ten), a lot of the “X-Men” fellas, and I should probably stop there or risk having my crazy inner fangirl take over this interview.
5. The great thing about the big reveal is that none of Maddie’s friends care more about the lying and sneaking around than that she’s secretly a nerd. What message do you hope that readers take away from the story? This question gets me every time because I didn’t set out to have a “message” in this book, but there sure did end up being one, lol. I just want readers to enjoy it and maybe come away thinking that just being who you are is fine and dandy. And anyone else who says differently can go jump in a lake.
6. We are big supporters of contemporary YA and were hoping you’d be willing to share your own list of favorite realistic fiction authors/books. Which authors have inspired you as a writer? Contemporary YA is so awesome right now, I hardly know where to start. The obvious answer in John Green because he’s amazing and a genius and the best kind of inspiration. Stephanie Perkins is phenomenal and my signed (to me, with a note) ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS is currently my favorite thing ever. My next planned read is THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky because I feel like a dumby for being a contemp author and not having read it, plus the movie was out-of-this-world good.
Thank you so much for having me! This was a super fun interview!!!
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Make sure to check out everyone else in the Selective Collective’s features!