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We’ve Got Spirit, Yes We Do!

Rainbow Rowell’s Kindred Spirits, a short story written for the U.K.'s World Book Day 2016, is a humorous and thoughtful examination of what it means to be a nerd.

We’ve Got Spirit, Yes We Do!

BOOK REPORT for Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell

Cover Story: Déjà Vu
BFF Charm: Yay
Swoonworthy Scale: 4
Talky Talk: Talk Nerdy to Me
Bonus Factors: Diversity, Tami Taylor Award for Awesome Motherhood
Relationship Status: Movie Date

Cover Story: Déjà Vu

This cover caused me to do a double take, complete with record scratch sound effect. Where had I seen this font before? Had I gained the skill of premonition and finally achieved my lifelong dream of becoming a Charmed One? Turns out the diagonal lettering is identical to that of Rowell’s previous book, Carry On. Because it’s so unique, it’s the kind of thing that should either be limited to one book or be consistent across all her books—otherwise, it gives the impression that Kindred Spirits is a sequel or somehow related to Carry On (which it isn’t, except in adorableness). Alternatively, I could just be anal retentive.

Also, what Rowell wants us to think is that the “for older readers” badge just means kids older than 11. But we all know it’s a secret shoutout to those of us who are a little less Y and a little more A, amirite?

The Deal:

Eighteen-year-old Elena can’t remember a time before Star Wars. She arrives at the theater four days before the release of the newest movie, ready to camp out on the sidewalk to earn her place in line and prove her devotion to the franchise. Envisioning a celebratory bonding experience with a crowd of likeminded fans who share inside jokes, have epic lightsaber battles, and end up becoming lifelong friends, she is disheartened to find that there is no line party. It’s just her and two dudes holding down the fort—one of whom seems to have no interest in even speaking to her, let alone getting matching tattoos. With a worried mom driving up and down the street, an overactive bladder, and a secret that could seriously ruin her nerd cred, will Elena go hard or go home?

Heads up to woke YAers: proceeds from the U.S. version (much better cover, TBH) benefit the ACLU!

BFF Charm: Yay

Full disclosure: I’m not into Star Wars (*ducks flying tomatoes*). But as obsessed as Elena is, I don’t think my apathy for a galaxy far, far away would affect our friendship. The way she feels about Star Wars is the way I feel about Harry Potter, and I see us as the type of BFFs who appreciate each other’s nerdiness and respect each other’s differences without arguing about whose fandom is better or pushing our thing onto the other person. With our powers combined, I know we could write some killer crossover fanfiction. Plus, Elena’s selfie game is on point, so I trust her to be able to capture my best angles (or filter the shizz out of it to make it look like she did). And Elena and I are both frequent pee-ers, so I’d have a guaranteed bathroom buddy at all times. The only thing that makes me raise an eyebrow is that while Elena isn’t a mean girl herself, she hangs out with one. But as Elena’s new BFF, I’ve got her back whenever she’s ready to finally stand up to Jocelyn.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

There’s some cute, v. mild flirting, but that’s about it. For a < 100-page story in which the characters just met each other four days ago and also haven’t showered since then, anything more would have felt too instalovey. And gross.

Talky Talk: Talk Nerdy To Me

There is no shortage of Star Wars humor to be found in this story. As one who does not have The Force (Is The Force even something you can have, or do you just use it but not possess it? Seriously, I’m hopeless.), I’m sure some of it went over my head, but even I had to chuckle during a scene when two women known as The Cupcake Gals bring themed cupcakes to the people waiting in line and Elena posts a pic on Instagram with the hashtag #TheForceACAKEns.

Kindred Spirits also explores deeper issues around nerd culture, like the problematic idea of the “fake nerd girl.” I particularly love Gabe’s take on how nerdiness is defined and who gets to claim it:

“I’m a nerd, right? Like obviously. Classic nerd. I hate sports, I know every Weird Al song by heart. I don’t know how to talk to most people. I’m probably going to get a job in computer science. Like, I know those are all stereotypes, but they’re also true of me. That’s who I am. And the thing about nerd culture being mainstream culture now means that there’s no place to just be a nerd among other nerds—without being reminded that you’re the nerd.”

Bonus Factor: Diversity

First of all, can I get an amen for MC WOC? (That’s main character/woman of color, but I’ve just decided that MC WOC will be my DJ name if this whole teaching thing falls through.) Second of all, the most common microaggression I see authors commit is only mentioning a character’s race when that character is not white. It promotes the idea that whiteness should be automatically assumed, and anything else is “other.” I read a lot, y’all, and this book, published in 2016, is the first ever book by a white author that I can recall explicitly stating a character’s race as white when it’s not required to understand the setting (historical fiction) or to advance the plot (an “issue book”). I’m not talking “creamy,” “pale,” or any other adjectives used to imply white skin. I mean that the first description of Gabe is “a tall white boy,” and Troy is “a big white guy with a blond beard.” So when it’s later mentioned that Elena is Vietnamese and that Mark, the manager of the movie theater, is Latino, it feels like they’re all on equal footing. Everyone’s race is mentioned, so no one race is the norm. More authors do this, please!

Bonus Factor: Tami Taylor Award for Awesome Motherhood

In my youth, I would have been mortified if I had camped out for a midnight release and my mom kept cruising by multiple times a day to check that I was still alive. But as an old, I firmly believe Elena’s mom would be on the receiving end of the Patty Chase Award for Awful Parenting if she didn’t. She has legit concerns about her teenage daughter sleeping on the sidewalk next to two strange dudes in the dead of winter, and while she does try to bribe Elena with hot cocoa and the promise of watching Empire Strikes Back from her warm, cozy living room, she ultimately trusts Elena enough to let her make her own choices.

Casting Call:

Lana Condor as Elena

Younger Josh Groban as Gabe

Gabe is described in the text as resembling “Clark Kent’s skinny cousin."

Zach Galifianakis as Troy

Obvs.

Relationship Status: Movie Date

While I don’t know if I’d spend four days sleeping on the ground during a Midwest winter for you, book, I’ll gladly join you for a midnight release. I’ll lay my head on your shoulder as we share a bag of popcorn in the dark, and I know you’ll be right there waiting faithfully to fill me in on what I miss when I inevitably have to get up to pee. I hope our short date will blossom into something more, but if it doesn’t, I’ll cherish the memory of our nerdy night together.

FTC Full Disclosure: This book was gifted to me by a friend. I received no gold Galleons, silver Sickles, bronze Knuts, or Muggle money for this review. Kindred Spirits is available now.

Britt's photo About the Author: Britt lives in San Francisco, CA. When she’s not sprawled out on her classroom floor after a long day of droppin’ knowledge, she can be found at home reading YA and/or reminding Netflix that yes she is still watching, thank you very much. Her patronus is a bespectacled giraffe.