For those of you that have experienced the sometimes brutal social and emotional roller coasters of grade school, you know how upsetting it is to be called a nerd, but in the context of Michael Buckley’s young adult novel Nerds, being called this name is hardly a bad thing.
Meet the National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society, NERDS. That’s right, Nerds are actually a super secret group of high-tech secret agents that you probably pass right by everyday. From the beginning of time nerds have been bullied, taunted, and sometimes flat out ignored because of their unassuming appearances. However, we all known that looks can be deceiving. These paste-eating, inhaler-puffing, buck-toothed, brace-face kids can move between the regular world and the world of spies, secret agents, and super villains undetected because of their humble appearances. And guess what? Not only are these school kids super cool spies in disguise, they operate right out of their own elementary school! While most students are too busy talking with their friends, eating lunch, or checking their hair in the mirror, this awkward group of outsiders is busy slipping through the secret passage ways in the lockers of the school to access their headquarters in the basement. From there they use only the most up-to-date technology to practice their moves, get new gear, and jet-set around the world to fight crime. It must be hard getting picked on and called a loser when you’re a secret agent living a double life to save the world, but for agents code named “Gluestick”, “Pufferfish”, “Choppers”, “Flinch”, and “Wheezer”, maintaining their secrecy is the key to keeping incognito and hidden from the super villains they fight on the regular.
For these agents, risking their lives to save the world is no big deal, but can they handle a new addition to their team? Sure, kickin’ the world’s most maniacal villains in the rear is no big deal, but when Jackson “Braceface” Jones shows up, things get sticky. You see, for years Jackson was a hot-shot, football playing, cool-kid. That all changed when Jackson got braces. Suddenly he was kicked off the team, and his friends quit talking to him. When he has a run-in at the NERD’s headquarters, the team’s leader, Agent Brand, decides to take him in. Will Jackson ever find friends again? Will the NERDS accept him as one of their own or forgive him for the years of merciless taunting he made them endure? When Jackson finds himself as one of the “nerds” he always bullied, everything starts to change.
On a more serious note, Nerds presents some important themes that resonate with children in grade school. Throughout the book you see the effect of Jackson’s bullying on those considered “nerds” or “losers” in school. One of these nerds, through years of anger and hard feelings, eventually turns to the dark sides and tries to destroy the world. Now I’m not saying that any person who has ever been called a name wants to take over the world, but this book does show the reader how seemingly harmless pranks and cranks can seriously hurt a person’s feelings. In Buckley’s novel, things are turned upside down. Bullying is not cool, and being a nerd is actually awesome. It also goes to show that not only should you accept others for who they are, but you should always accept yourself for you who are.
So does the team ever accept Jackson into their world of secret agents and globe trotting missions? Read Michael Buckley’s Nerds and find out!
Buckley, M. (2009). Nerds: National espionage, rescue, and defense society. New York, NY: Amulet Books.