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Saturday, June 11, 2011

'Con-Nerd' by Oliver Phommavanh

Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:


Mama tells me I'm gifted and talented. But I know the truth. I'm just a nerd.
Kids call me Con-nerd - half Connor and all nerd.
I'm supposed to become a doctor but I have this deep, dark secret: I want to be a cartoonist.
And all of a sudden my mega-cool comics are getting noticed at school - I might even get into a special art class. That would sure impress this girl I'm keen on . . . and it might just be my chance to show the world my true destiny.

But I'm not sure Mama will see it quite that way . . .

Everyone has a Connor in their class. He wears glasses, gets straight-As, keeps to himself and doesn’t have too many friends. He’s a nerd – so much so that his nickname is Con-nerd.

Connor’s one saving grace is his wicked drawing ability. His Mama may have high hopes that Connor becomes a doctor – but when Connor has a pen in his hand it becomes clear that his destiny lies in Manga and comic books.

But Connor’s cartoonist dreams are a secret. . . or at least they were, until he meets a new girl called Tori. Suddenly Connor wants to be noticed. He doesn’t want to blend into the wallpaper anymore.

When Connor decides to stand-out, his classmates come to help. He gets a makeover and a chance to show off his drawing-genius.

‘Con-Nerd’ is the second novel from Aussie YA author, Oliver Phommavanh.

I have to admit that I haven’t read any young-young adult books for quite a while. If anything is touted as being 10+ reading I’m quick to turn away. Or at least, that used to be the case . . . until I saw the movie adaptation of Jeff Kinney’s ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’. I loved the movie so much that I had to read the books . . . and I ended up having a cackling good time! Not since ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ have I so enjoyed middle-grade reading. So I wasn’t as hesitant as I'd normally be to pick up the latest novel from new Aussie YA author, Oliver Phommovanh.

It’s true – geeks shall one day inherit the earth. Or at least, it looks that way with the current media obsession of all things nerdy. Think about it – ‘Glee’ is all about the slushied social piranhas. Mark Zuckerberg was voted TIME magazine’s 2010 achiever of the year. And vintage thick-framed nerd glasses are the new must-have fashion accessory. It’s official – geek is chic.

Phommovanh’s Connor harks back to a more vintage nerd. He’s a recluse who has familial pressure to be geeky and achieve the all-important career goal of becoming a doctor. For all his home-cooked pressures, Connor feels the need to hide his one burning obsession . . . drawing.

And it’s a shame, because Connor is really talented. It only takes a little help and encouragement from his classmates for Connor to realize just how talented he is, and how much he wants to be a cartoonist . . . no matter how scared he is of his mother’s wrath;

I whisper in his ear. ‘I can’t draw.’
‘You want raw what?’ Stephen scratches his head.
I scribble it down in the back of my book. I’m in trouble. Miss won’t let me draw.
Stephen takes my pencil. Just do it anyway.
It’s your fault, you told me to fake my mum’s signature.
No one forst you.
I take my red pen and correct his spelling of forced.
Stephen rolls his eyes. ‘Oh, sorry, Con-nerd.’
‘That’s right, I’m a nerd,’ I snap. ‘So why do you hang out with me?’
‘Because you’re a mad drawer,’ Stephen says.
I tap my glasses. ‘Well, I can’t draw or play basketball anymore, so you can leave me alone.’ Mum’s right, we won’t be friends next year.
‘Man, I liked you better as a nerd,’ Stephen says. ‘Now you’re just a jerk.’

Phommovanh’s ‘Con-Nerd’ is wickedly funny. I forget that that’s one of the charms of young-young adult fiction – such comedic books are laugh-out-loud BIG funny, going for the unabashed, ridiculous laughs. In a book about nerds there’s plenty of target-practice, but I quite liked that Phommovanh is never cruelly funny. The biggest and best laughs come from Connor’s perspective of life as an under-achiever in his mother’s eyes. And while there are laughs to be had, Phommovanh is actually doing a serious exploration of parent’s pressuring their children to do better, be better, be the best you can be! . . . all the while ignoring their kids true talents and enjoyments.


Oliver Phommavanh's debut novel


  1. That sounds awesome! I havent read any Young YA in a long time either, but this sounds fabulous!

    Great review as usual hon!

  2. It is an awesome book! LOVE it! It sounds like some of the kids I know. They're good at something else, music, sport or art, but their parents push them into coaching and make them get into Selective.

  3. omg... one of the best books i have ever read. Nerds unite together in this awsome book and it shows so much from peoples perspective. I love how it shows differents subjects, languages and families, schooling, parents and teachers, friends and the rest of the school... 4 1/2 OUT OF 5!


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