Friday, February 28, 2014

Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls - Rachel Simmons

Title: Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls
Author: Rachel Simmons
Publisher: Mariner Books (Houghton Mifflin), 2011 (Paperback)
Length: 377 pages
Genre: Adult; Nonfiction, Parenting
Started: February 27, 2014
Finished: February 28, 2014

From the back cover:

When Odd Girl Out was first published, it became an instant bestseller, igniting a long-overdue conversation about the hidden culture of female bullying. Today the dirty looks, taunting notes, and social exclusion that plague girls' friendships have gained new momentum in cyberspace.

In this updated edition, educator and bullying expert Rachel Simmons gives girls, parents, and educators proven and innovative strategies for navigating social dynamics online, as well as brand new classroom initiatives and step-by-step parental suggestions for dealing with conventional bullying. With up-to-the-minute research and real-life stories, Odd Girl Out continues to be the definitive resource on the most pressing social issues facing girls today.

This is another of my "issues of raising a girl" books that I picked up recently, the first book done by the author that wrote The Curse of the Good Girl that I read last week. After reading both books, I now realize I should have read this one first, since a lot of he material in the second book is integrated here, and when put in perspective with bullying, it actually makes a lot more sense. This book was originally published in 2002 before technology was a major issue in bullying, so this is a revised edition to include updated information and research.

There is a particular type of girl bullying that the author describes in her book. It isn't a case of girls picking on other girls who are weak and different that they barely know. The cases here are ones about girls on relatively equal footing in terms of social standing that are already friends, and where one either moves up or down in popularity and the other is thus affected. The book claims that since our culture doesn't allow girls to express anger in overt ways like boys, they clam up and their anger and frustration erupts through covert tactics like manipulation and rumour-spreading. The book actually likens some of these 'friendships' to toxic relationships and warns that girls that cannot walk away from them risk setting themselves up for being used and abused in future relationships. She goes into great detail on cliques and the idea that a group will choose a scapegoat to ostracize mainly to divert the negative attention from themselves but it's a vicious cycle because the group then focuses in on another in order to reassure themselves.

The examples the author uses from personal interviews are familiar to me as a teacher hearing stories from students (my experience as a child comes from the first type I mentioned above). I acknowledge that girl bullying and aggression exists. But to me these examples seem a little on the extreme side and are actually more about emotional blackmail. Both parties in the examples contributed to the situation in one way or another, and it seems as if simply walking away and having nothing to do with the other party would help things (aside from cyber-bullying, that throws a wrench in things). The author does list strategies for teachers, parents, and girls themselves for coping with these situations; many of which I do believe work from seeing them in action in schools. The author also has chapters on cyber-bullying and sexting, which complicate matters all the more, and cautions parents to strictly monitor and restrict social media usage during the key bullying ages (10-14).

An excellent book for parents and teachers to read, especially if they know someone affected by this particular type of girl bullying. If the criteria I listed does not fit your daughter's type of bullying, you might wish to seek out another book, I recommend Bullied by Carrie Goldman.

Thoughts on the cover:
I like the image used together with the green and yellow colour scheme, it's very pleasing to the eye.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Freak - Marcella Pixley

Title: Freak
Author: Marcella Pixley
Publisher: Square Fish (Macmillan), 2013 (Paperback)
Length: 131 pages
Genre: Children's/Young Adult; Realistic Fiction
Started: February 25, 2014
Finished: February 26, 2014

From the back cover:

For Miriam Fisher, budding poet and proud outsider, seventh grade is a year etched in her memory "clear as pain." That's the year her older sister, Deborah, once her best friend and fellow "alien," bloomed like a beautiful flower and joined the high school in-crowd. That's the year high school senior Artie Rosenburg, the "hottest guy in the drama club" and, Miriam thinks, her soul mate, comes to live with Miriam's family. And that's the year the popular "watermelon girls" turn up the heat in their cruel harassment of Miriam, ripping her life wide open in shocking, unexpected ways.

Teased and taunted in school, isolated at home, Miriam is pushed toward breaking. With nowhere else to turn, she decides to take matters into her own hands and prove she's a force to be reckoned with. But what will be the cost? And who will she be when it's over?

This is a great short read on bullying that is perfect for the intermediate/middle school grades. The writing is bit more advanced than your usual middle grade book, so not an ideal choice for struggling readers, but overall an excellent choice due to the themes.

Miriam is twelve and proud to be different. She reads the dictionary for fun, quotes Shakespeare, and is an aspiring poet. Her 14-year-old sister Deborah, who used to be more like Miriam, is now firmly entrenched in the cool crowd and will do anything to separate from the shadow of her little sister's behaviour. The popular girls in Miriam's middle school frequently harass and degrade her. This behaviour only increases when the popular high school senior, Artie Rosenburg, comes to live with Miriam and Deborah's family. When the bullying takes on a particularly cruel spin, Miriam lashes out  in an uncharacteristic way and finds herself unable to confide in school officials or her parents. When a chance for revenge is presented to her, she is faced with the difficult decision to either take it or to help her tormentor.

I was pulled into the story right away; Miriam's voice was very compelling and I loved her quirkiness. The writing is excellent and well-crafted. There were a few things in terms of plot that seemed a little unrealistic though: that the high school senior was hanging out with the freshman sisters and were even bothering to discuss the twelve-year-old sisters, that Deborah would allow her friends to torment her sister without intervening at all, and that Miriam and Deborah's parents were really that clueless (about Deborah and Artie, not necessarily about the bullying).

A must-read for sure. The book does a nice job of balancing the experiences of Miriam, the victim, with those of the main girl who torments her.

Thoughts on the cover:
I love it. It remind me of a motivational poster that we have in some of our classrooms with a school of fish swimming in one direction and one lone fish swimming the opposite way.

Chitchat: Celebrating the World's Languages - Jude Isabella

Title: Chitchat: Celebrating the World's Languages
Author: Jude Isabella
Publisher: Kids Can Press, 2013 (Hardcover)
Length: 44 pages
Genre: Children's Nonfiction
Started: February 26, 2014
Finished: February 26, 2014

From the inside cover:

We humans chitchat away in 7000 world languages. But how did language come to be? Why can we speak, while cats and dogs can't? When, how, and where did our alphabets come from? Chitchat looks at languages - spoken, written, and signed - to find out where they came from and how they're changing.

Did you know...?

  • By the time we finish high school, we have a vocabulary of about 20 000 words. 
  • English speakers are big on yod-dropping - taking out the little "y" sound in words. So "news" becomes "noos", and "student" becomes "Stoodent." Why drop the "y"? We're lazy and take shortcuts. 
  • Words disappear because they are no longer used, and new words appear. For example, the new word "freegan" means a person who eats food that's been discarded. 
  • Like animals, languages can become extinct. There is only one remaining speaker of the Amurdag language of Australia. When he dies, so does the language.
Chitchat gives an overview of the world of languages and the languages of the world in one kid-friendly, eye-popping package. 

I'm a big language buff, so a kid's linguistics book (simple though it may be) really intrigued me. 

This book is a very basic introduction, covering the fundamentals plus some really fun information in a way that will appeal to kids. Each two-page spread covers a different topic, from how languages developed and what language families are, to how languages become extinct and how new words enter into our vernacular. There's cool little activities every few pages, like trying to identify the correct meaning of Japanese words based on the sounds alone, and even a description of how Cockney slang works (that was really enlightening). The illustrations are quirky and appealing, and help visualize key concepts. 

A really great read if you're a language teacher or just want something on the subject for your kids or students. It's pretty basic in terms of what it covers, but it might be a starting point for some kids for research or general interest. 

Thoughts on the cover:
I'm not crazy about the illustration style, but I can see how it's appealing to kids. I do like the multicultural aspect, but it would've been nice if there could have been a person of colour as one of the bigger figures on the bottom of the cover rather than tiny and upside down in the corner. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

So Sexy So Soon -Diane Levin and Jean Kilbourne

Title: So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids
Author: Diane E. Levin and Jean Kilbourne
Publisher: Ballantine Books (Random House), 2008 (Hardcover)
Length: 211 pages
Genre: Adult; Nonfiction, Parenting
Started: February 24, 2014
Finished: February 25, 2014

From the inside cover:

Thong panties, padded bras, and risqué Halloween costumes for young girls. T-shirts that boast "Chick Magnet" for toddler boys. Sexy content on almost every television channel, as well as in books, movies, video games, and even cartoons. Hot young female pop stars wearing provocative clothing and dancing suggestively while singing songs with sexual and sometimes violent lyrics. These products are marketed aggressively to our children; these stars are held up for our young daughters to emulate - and for our sons to see as objects of desire.

Popular culture and technology inundate our children with an onslaught of mixed messages at earlier ages than ever before. Corporations capitalize on this disturbing trend, and without the emotional sophistication to understand what they are doing and seeing, kids are getting into increasing trouble emotionally and socially some may even engage in precocious sexual behaviour. Parents are left shaking their heads, wondering: How did this happen? What can we do?

So Sexy So Soon is an invaluable and practical guide for parents who are fed up, confused, and even scared by what their kids - or their kids' friends - do and say. Diane E. Levin, Ph.D., and Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D., internationally recognized experts on early childhood development and the impact of the media on children and teens, understand that saying no to commercial culture - TV, movies, toys, Internet access, and video games - isn't a realistic or viable option for most families. Instead, they offer parents essential, age-appropriate strategies to counter the assault. For instance:

  • Help your children expand their imaginations by suggesting new ways for them to play with toys - for example, instead of "playing house" with dolls, they might send their toys on a backyard archeological adventure. 
  • Counteract the narrow gender stereotypes in today's media: ask your son to help you cook; get your daughter outside to play ball. 
  • Share your values and concerns with other adults - relatives, parents of your children's friends - and agree on how you'll deal with TV and other media when your children are at one another's houses. 
Filled with savvy suggestions, helpful sample dialogues, and poignant true stories from families dealing with these issues, So Sexy So Soon provides parents with the information, skills, and confidence they need to discuss sensitive topics openly and effectively so their kids can just be kids. 

I've been picking up a lot of books like this lately: books on issues that relate to raising a girl in today's modern culture. Granted, I think it's equally hard raising a boy or a girl nowadays, but being a parent to a girl comes with unique challenges that I began to notice when I started teaching and were fully affirmed when my daughter was born. 

Kids are under assault by inappropriate sexual content in today's media, a lot of it actually aimed at their age group. When I had difficulties finding a Halloween costume for my toddler that wasn't a princess or a "naughty kitten" (actual wording on package), I knew this was a major issue. I'd been noticing examples for years: the types of tween shows airing on the Disney channel (which aren't allowed in our house), Bratz/Monster High/Ever After High dolls, the kind of clothing available for girls once they outgrow toddler sizes, the lack of strong female role models in the media, and the prevalence of violent role models for boys. And the consequences are there as well: students exposed to sexual concepts they aren't emotionally ready for (beyond the pure mechanics we are expected to explain to them), early exposure to pornography (try digesting that the first time you hear it from a 10-year-old), children imitating sexual behaviour without knowing the ramifications of that behaviour, and teenagers and young adults having very warped ideas of sexuality and relationships. 

This book begins by explaining exactly how this trend began and examples of it in our culture (from anecdotes as well as research studies). The book then goes on to address the consequences of this trend and how parents can counteract this in both younger children and teenagers. The suggestions are actually pretty good and are similar to ones I've gleaned from other sources, and are ones I can picture myself using with my students or my own daughter. The resources and notations listed in the back of the book are extensive, so anyone who's interested can further their research that way.

An excellent book on the issue of sexualized childhood in our modern culture and how to combat it on a personal and wider level. 

Thoughts on the cover:
About as good an image that can be used without divulging into questionable content. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Curse of the Good Girl - Rachel Simmons

Title: The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence
Author: Rachel Simmons
Publisher: The Penguin Press, 2009 (Hardcover)
Length: 262 pages
Genre: Adult; Nonfiction, Parenting
Started: February 20, 2013
Finished: February 23, 2013

From the inside cover:

In The Curse of the Good Girl, Rachel Simmons, bestselling author of Odd Girl Out, argues that in idealizing the Good Girl we are teaching girls to embrace a version of selfhood that sharply curtails their power and potential. Unerringly nice, polite, modest, and selfless, the Good Girl is an identity so narrowly defined that it's unachievable. When girls fail to live up to these empty expectations - experiencing conflicts with peers or making mistakes in the classroom or on the playing field - they become paralyzed by self-criticism that stunts the growth of their vital skills and habits. Simmons traces the poisonous impact of Good Girl pressure on girls' development and provides a strategy to reverse the tide. At once illuminating and prescriptive, The Curse of the Good Girl is an essential guide to contemporary girl culture and a call to arms from a new front in female empowerment.

Using the stories shared by women and girls who have attended workshops, Simmons shows pressure from parents, teachers, coaches, media, and peers erects a psychological glass ceiling that begins to enforce its confines in girlhood and extends across the female life span. The curse of the Good Girl erodes girls' abilities to know, express, and manage a complete range of feelings. It expects girls to be selfless, limiting their expressions of their needs. It requires modesty, depriving them of the permission to articulate their strengths and goals. It diminishes assertive body language, quiets voices, and weakens handshakes. It touches all areas of girls' lives and follows many into adulthood, limiting their personal and professional potential.

We have long lamented the loss of self-esteem in adolescent girls, recognizing that while the doors of opportunity are open to twenty-first century American girls, many lack the confidence to walk through them. In The Curse of the Good Girl, Simmons provides the first comprehensive action plan to silence the curse of the Good Girl and bolster the self, making clear her radical assertion that the most critical freedom we can win for our daughters is the liberty to recognize their authentic voice and act on it.

As a teacher and a parent to a daughter, these kinds of books always interest me. This book was beneficial in many ways but fell short in others.

The Curse of the Good Girl begins not by explaining what the curse of the Good Girl is exactly or how it forms or presents itself in our culture, but by stating the idea as fact (which I have no qualm about, I know it exists, I just like research to back up anecdotal claims) and how it plays out in interactions between teenaged girls and others. In part two, the author presents ideas of how to undo the damage the Good Girl image inflicts, mainly about how to communicate in ways that are emotionally authentic and not about furthering drama.

The issue I have with this approach is that trying to fix the Good Girl persona seems all well and good, but if a single girl or even a group of girls change their behaviours, they're still going to eventually face the larger world outside of their school where there are still people who think poorly of strong women who advocate for their needs and don't tow the line. Then that girl or group of girls is stuck, because unless we can facilitate a societal shift, which will only come from addressing these misogynistic ideals on a larger level for all girls when they're young, these girls might achieve success amongst their friends or their school, but will eventually be confronted with them at a higher level.

What I would have liked to see is an analysis of how this image of the Good Girl has developed in our culture: how it emerges in parenting practices, how it's furthered by the media, how it's enforced in school and everyday life, and how to curb it while our girls are still young rather than try to undo the damage when they're teenagers.

An insightful read about the Good Girl image society expects of women and the damage it does, and how to go about rewiring our girls to counter the Good Girl persona.

Thoughts on the cover:
Cute image for the front, definitely embodies the typical teenage girl.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Twisted Myths - Maura McHugh

Title: Twisted Myths: 20 Classic Stories with a Dark and Dangerous Heart
Author: Maura McHugh
Publisher: Quantum Books, 2013 (Hardcover)
Length: 144 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Mythology
Started: February 15, 2014
Finished: February 19, 2014

From the inside cover:

This book is not for the bedtime reader. Open it up to find the sinister myths and legends you were not told as a child. Maura McHugh's frightening retellings of these ancient tales bring the powerful gods and goddesses of past worlds to the modern reader. From the impossible trials imposed by their jealousy and vengeance to the trickery of desperate lovers, tragedy and triumph spill from these ancient myths and revisit the horrifying origins that shaped and scarred the mortal world.

If you are among those fearless readers who thrive on chilling tales, you won't want to put this book down until the very last page.

I'm always up for new mythology books, and this one looked intriguing.

I though that these would be re-imaginings of the myths, similar to the fairy tale retellings in novels that've been coming out where there are recognizable elements but the stories are completely different. However, the versions of these myths are ones I've seen before, so if you're a seasoned reader of mythology there won't be anything really new here.

The beauty in this book lies in the selection and variety of the stories and the illustrations. Most mythology books centre on a single cultural origin of the stories: Greek/Roman, Norse, Egyptian, etc. This book has a little bit of everything: Greek, Norse, Egyptian, Irish, Indian, African, Native American, Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, plus even more obscure ones from Central America. They were going for a dark and bloody theme here, which isn't hard to find in myths, but the illustrations here are simply beautiful. They're made with an amazing colour palette, so artistically minded readers might get enjoyment from those as well. The content and illustrations aren't overly gory, so in terms of an appropriate age level, I'd think this could work for readers as young as 10 or 11 and up.

A great selection of popular and lesser known myths from many countries of origin, a wonderful book for readers just getting into mythology that like their material a little on the scary side.

Thoughts on the cover:
Considering how gorgeous the illustrations are, they could've picked a better image for the cover...the statue head crying tears of blood is a little over-dramatic and is drowned out by the huge title font anyway.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Real Boy - Anne Ursu

Title: The Real Boy
Author: Anne Ursu
Publisher: Walden Pond Press (HarperCollins), 2013 (Hardcover)
Length: 341 pages
Genre: Children's Fantasy, Fairy Tale
Started: February 12, 2014
Finished: February 14, 2014

From the inside cover:

On an island on the edge of an immense sea there is a city, a forest, and a boy. The city is called Asteri, a perfect city saved by the magic woven into its walls when a devastating plague swept through the world years before. The forest is called The Barrow, a vast wood of ancient trees that encircles the city and feeds the earth with magic. And the boy is called Oscar, a shop boy for the most powerful magician in the Barrow, who spends his days in the dark cellar of his master's shop grinding herbs and dreaming of the wizards who once lived on the island. Oscar's world is small, but he likes it that way. The real world is vast, strange, and unpredictable. And Oscar does not quite fit in it.

But it's been a long time since anyone who could call himself a wizard walked the world, and now that world is changing. Children in the city are falling ill; something sinister lurks in the forest. Oscar has long been content to stay in his small room, comforted in the knowledge that the magic that flows from the trees will keep his island safe. Now even magic may not be enough to save it.

Anne Ursu has written an unforgettable story of transformation and belonging - a spellbinding tale of the way in which the power we all wield, great and small, lies in the choices we make.

I read Breadcrumbs a few years ago and it's still one of my favourite books and one I recommend all the time, so when I found out the author was coming out with a new book in a similar style, I waited less than patiently for it. The Real Boy is not based directly off any known fairy tale like Breadcrumbs is, but does borrow elements from Pinocchio and the Velveteen Rabbit.

The Real Boy follows 11-year-old Oscar, an orphan from the east of Alethia, brought to the Barrow by the magician Caleb to be his hand. Oscar is quite socially awkward (in fact the author confirmed the character is inspired by her son who has Aspergers), and is content to stay in the cellar with the many cats he cares for, grinding herbs and plants that Caleb sells to the people of the Barrow and Asteri. When Caleb travels to the continent on business, apprentices die, his shop is destroyed, and children from Asteri fall ill. With the help of the healer's apprentice, Callie, Oscar must try to manage to keep things together...and discovers a lot about himself in the process.

I love the author's writing, it was beautiful in Breadcrumbs and is the same in The Real Boy: simple yet elegant, with a good flow. The themes here are abundant: greed and the environmental effects of it, how fear makes people do truly stupid things that are counteractive to their happiness, the need to belong and to be accepted, and what it truly means to be human.

If you want a wonderful read, give The Real Boy a try. A plus for having a character with Asperger-like qualities, I love it when I see diversity in children's literature.

Thoughts on the cover:
They used the same cover designer that did the illustrations for Breadcrumbs, so I like the continuity between the stories even though the two books aren't related. I also love the deep orange and blue colour scheme.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Wolf Princess - Cathryn Constable

Title: The Wolf Princess
Author: Cathryn Constable
Publisher: Chicken House (Scholastic), 2013 (Hardcover)
Length: 309 pages
Genre: Children's Fantasy
Started: February 8, 2014
Finished: February 11, 2014

From the inside cover:

Sophie always dreamed of winter...

...of sparkling snowflakes and silver birch forests and air so crisp and cold it brought a blush to her cheeks. But Sophie's days in London are filled with rain. Only the friendship of bookish Marianne and glamorous Delphine makes it better.

Then, as if by magic, the girls find themselves traveling deep into wintry Russia. Abruptly abandoned in a blinding blizzard, they fear for their lives. But just like in a diary tale, a princess comes to their rescue: the beautiful, imperious Anna Volkonskaya, who brings them to a winter palace that was magnificent - once upon a time.

At first, Sophie is enchanted by Princess Anna's tales of glittering gray diamonds and wild white wolves. But she soon grows concerned. What is her place in the sinister mystery that surrounds the palace? Even as the wind and wolves howl outside, is Sophie in more danger now than she ever was lost in the snow?

What originally drew me to this book was the cover...not the one shown above, I saw an alternative cover. Sophie is an orphan (I'm guessing around 12 or 13 years old, the author doesn't actually say) who lives at a private boarding school in present-day London. Aside from the absence of her parents and not knowing much about her background other than the Russian stories she vaguely remembers her father telling her, Sophie feels out of place at school and longs for a true wintery, magical place like Russia.

Through some convenient coincidences, Sophie and her friends Marianne and Delphine are asked to go on a student recruiting trip to St. Petersburg. Through some more unrealistic events, the girls are abandoned by their chaperone and find themselves invited by a princess to a palace in the countryside. Princess Anna Feodorovna Volkonskaya immediately attaches herself to Sophie, and the princess' assistant Ivan enthrals Sophie with tales of the Volkonskaya family, related to the czar in the days before the revolution and guarded by white wolves. As the story unfolds, Sophie's purpose is realized and everything comes together.

There were a few things the author got so incredibly right. The way she writes the Russian winter setting is truly magical and surreal, it feels like Sophie really is in a fairy tale rather than modern-day Russia. This is the kind of material I would use in a classroom to show students how to really immerse readers in your writing. The scene towards the end of the book with Sophie and the wolves was well done too. Unfortunately there were some issues throughout the book that hindered my enjoyment of what had the potential to be an amazing story.

From the beginning, there were issues relating to suspension of disbelief. I can almost believe that the girls get sent on the Russian trip even though the headmistress is against it, but the girls getting abandoned on the train and blindly following Ivan to the palace. A strange man comes up to you knowing your names and tells you a princess is expecting you...what, were you born yesterday?  Are the red flags and alarm bells not going off in your head? If that wasn't enough to send up the signals, the princess has several strange freak-outs (Sophie and Delphine switching sarafans, Sophie not signing the paper, Sophie seeing the wolf), any of which would make even a 12-year-old girl think, "hmm, this chick is nuts, I'm outta here."

Secondly, the story moves rather slowly until you're practically at the end when Grigor comes in, then everything concludes rather quickly. Also, this felt like it was supposed to be a time travel story, I thought Sophie and the girls had been transported back to pre-revolution Russia, or it was hinting that they had. Even when you find out they're still in modern-day Russia the whole plot point with the Volkonskaya diamonds seems really far-fetched. And then when Sophie discovers her parentage and actually gets to stay...and she's going to pay for the upkeep of a palace with what exactly?

Beautiful setting and atmosphere, but not executed as well as it could have been.

Thoughts on the cover:
This was the cover image I originally saw, and I'm partial to it over the actual cover shown above. I do like the purple, blue, and silver tones the actual cover has, it makes the winter feel all the more enveloping. Plus the actual book text is purple, what's not to like?

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion

Title: The Rosie Project
Author: Graeme Simsion
Publisher: HarperCollins, 2013 (Paperback)
Length: 324 pages
Genre: Adult; Realistic Fiction
Started: February 1, 2014
Finished: February 6, 2014

From the inside cover:

Wife Wanted.

Must be punctual, logical, and enjoy travelling by bicycle. No smokers, drinkers, or horoscope readers need apply.

Don Tillman has a brilliant scientific mind, but social situations confound him. He's never had a second date. And so, in the evidence-based manner in which he approaches all things, he embarks upon the Wife Project: a sixteen-page questionnaire to find the perfect partner. Then in walks Rosie Jarman.

Rosie is on a quest of her own. She's looking for her biological father, a search that a certain genetics expert might just be able to help her with. Soon Don puts the Wife Project on the back burner in order to help Rosie pursue the Father Project. As an unlikely relationship blooms, Don is about to realize that, despite the best scientific efforts, you don't find love: love finds you.

This book had so much hype that I just had to give it a shot. Plus, the fact that the synopsis had a nerdy professor looking for love in all his awkwardness sealed it for me.

As seen from early on in the book when he gives his lecture on Asperger's, Don himself is an Aspy: extremely intelligent yet not quite all together on the social skills. For this reason he hasn't had much luck with romantic relationships (the fact that hugging repulses him might also have something to do with it). With the help of his adulterous friend Gene, Don creates a questionnaire to help weed out women according to his preferences: healthy BMI, no smoking or excessive drinking, and no vegans.

After a few hilarious encounters without success, Don meets Rosie, a PhD candidate moonlighting as a barmaid. Initially a set-up by Gene, Rosie asks Don to help her figure out who her biological father is, a question that's been plaguing Rosie since her mother died when she was a child. Rosie has lots of daddy issues which leads to issues with romantic commitment with men, so the relationship between her and Don seems unlikely, but when it starts to blossom boy is it ever cute (about as cute as a relationship between a 40-year-old academic and a 30-year-old cynic can be).

The ending is a little rushed with tying up the relationship loose ends plus finding out who Rosie's biological father is, but overall it's a really fun, humorous story.

If the idea of a Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang type of character trying to find a wife sounds like your type of story, give The Rosie Project a try.

Thoughts on the cover:
Eh, it's okay, considering the the bicycle doesn't really have much to do with the plot. I thought having some test tubes or other science-y stuff would be more appropriate, but then it might make readers think this is a non-fiction book...