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Confessions of a Bibliophile

An aspiring writer and bookstore employee with an incredibly bad book-buying habit... I'll read just about anything (so long as it will appeal to my interests in some way), but my main loves are YA and sci-fi/fantasy. I also like quirky history and science books and will book nerd. A lot. Currently in the process of weeding out my personal library. Find me on Twitter @princess_starr or check out my YA book, Snowfall, on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/240027
Airhead - Meg Cabot Let me be up front about something here—the first two times I tried to read this book I couldn’t get past the first few chapters because it enraged me. When I actually finished it and found out that it wasn’t so bad, I gave the plot a chance, and I like the plot, but there are still some massive issues. Here’s why I contemplated throwing it against the wall: The very first chapter of the book introduces us to main character Emerson, describes herself as geeky and not very fashion-conscious, and complains that everyone is ignoring her persuasive speech about gaming. In contrast, Popular Clichéd Mean Girl Whitney is described as being perfect and blonde and everyone hangs on her every word. By means of deduction, we’re supposed to be sympathizing with Em, because she says that she’s geeky and is a brunette.CHARACTERIZATION DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY.There’s nothing in the book showing us that Em’s a geek or a nerd. She says that she likes playing video games, but we never get the sense that she’s really into Journeyquest (bland game of choice), aside from getting to spend time with a guy she likes. Not only does she not feel sympathetic, way to break the cardinal writing rule of ‘show don’t tell.’ A laundry list of traits is not characterization. Also, I was really sad to see that Meg Cabot fell back on the “Popular blonde cheerleaders are EVIIIIIL” stereotype, especially after reading Lana in the final Princess Diaries volumes. It’s really tiring at this point.Which brings me to my second biggest problem: Em and her mother are crazy straw feminists, to the point of saying that a girl looks pretty is automatically shameful and judging a person on their looks. Uh, really? I’m by no means attractive, but I like to dress up and decide to make myself look nice every once in a while. I’m not trying to impress anyone, it’s just sometimes I get in the mood. It’s all well and good to encourage Em and her sister Frida to see beyond the artificialities of a person (although considering how Em goes on and on about how hot Christopher is, doesn’t seem to have worked), but this borders on the ridiculous.If I had to put my finger on it, a lot of the series focuses on “Judging people based on their looks is bad! You can’t tell a person’s insides from their outsides!” but drops the ball whenever Em has to become Nikki Howard. Take for example, the real Nikki’s best friend Lulu. Now, I love Lulu, she’s my favorite character in the whole series—she’s sympathetic, she really cares about Em/Nikki, and she’s funny—but I hated the way she was characterized. Lulu’s first described to us by Em as a celebutante who’s famous for being famous, and Em thinks she’s (and Nikki) are both brainless beautiful twits. And once we get to met Lulu, we find out…that she’s a dumb blonde with a heart of gold. Dropping anvils should be like making sure the plot gun goes off at the right time; having Lulu surprise Em by being intelligent (by Em’s standards) would have been a great twist. There’s a lot of plot that could have been good but gets shoved down. The public buys into the “Nikki Howard has amnesia” story (which would have been debunked quickly, especially if someone who’s as famous as Nikki apparently is was involved), Em has to learn to keep up appearances, and the spyware she finds on Nikki’s computer is introduced way too late in the book. If anything, this would have worked a lot better if all three books were just one big novel, and feels like a trilogy just to be a trilogy. Now, the spyware and how Em was going to live on as Nikki did interest me, which is why I picked up the next two volumes. But the characterization issue was so massive, it left a bad taste in my mouth. It really relies on the reader liking Emerson because she’s supposed to be just like them: geeky, not popular, prefers books to clothes. But again, give me something that shows me why I should like her, and not a list of things that I should be able to relate to. A relatable character is someone that the readers should see pieces of themselves in—play up Em’s lack of confidence, make her an actual geek (and one who knows what she’s talking about, because, really, referencing the same three lines from Star Wars does not a geek make), make her someone who could actually exist in real life.