With a fun title that doesn’t quite live up to expectations, Retro Geeks is a Young Adult novel written by Karen Mueller Bryson. Publishing company Short On Time, founded by Bryson herself, aims to write for “Teens on the go!” by providing short, straightforward stories in a concise format, which is the jumping point from where Bryson starts to miss the mark. From a cringe worthy phrases to a corny high five shtick, all coupled with a writing style that makes Stephanie Meyer look like William Shakespeare, Retro Geeks is just a couple hundred pages short of being a mediocre kid-lit story.
“Remember when it wasn’t cool to be a geek? That’s so yesterday! Retro Geeks, chronicles the (mis)adventures of two self-proclaimed geek girls, Molly and Ally, as they attempt to land super-hot dates for their senior prom. The 80s obsessed BFFs attempt a variety of date-finding schemes, including spying on the popular girls for the 411 on fitting in, in their quest for top-tier prom dates.”
Let me state clearly for the record that I detest all things 80s. Upon finishing this book in a little under half an hour, I spent the remaining thirty minutes staring dumbfounded at my Nook and RAGE TYPING to my friends.
Ally and Molly, supposed high school seniors, are written with the mentality of a middle schooler. Just one, though, because there were not enough personality traits to make a complete person. Neither girl felt as if she had a solid personality and there isn’t anything for a reader to identify with in these one dimensional characters shells that were used to get Bryson’s message of “80’s RAWKS” across. Rather than, you know… fully fleshed out characters with real life problems. Bryson’s main focus seemed more on correctly citing the 80’s music and fashion choices of the girls rather than giving them believable and character-centric dialogue. The random use of 80’s pop culture mixed with the BFFs uttering phrases such as, “We really gotta motor!” and “Like, duh!” gave the book an extremely dated feel and reads as merely a transparent attempt at trying too hard to be hip with the jive, man.
Though the protagonists long for acceptance in this cut throat world of classmates, both girls are extremely judgmental of their peers, usually with an elitist attitude that was based on the type of clothes they wear, (“‘You were practically falling all over that hick,’ Molly continued not holding back any of the disdain she felt for Tucker. ‘He’s completely country. He wears Wranglers. And cowboy boots!’ – pg 14) going so far as to try and prove their self worth with hot prom dates, and even takes a Tina Fey-esque turn into Mean Girls territory when the high school starlet and self proclaimed “Queen of Mean” Elisa invites the duo to dine with the popular crowd and schemes that football playing hottie-twins Tank and Hank invites the girls to prom as a joke.
Bryson does a very poor job at telling us what is going on rather than showing us around this world she’s created. At several points, Retro Geeks reads more like a parent’s guide to every high school stereotype than an actual story. There is even a severe lack of description in their appearance, placing the emphasis more on what the girls are wearing rather than any individual physical features Ally and Molly may or may not possess. When I realized that Retro Geeks was actually intended to be marketed towards the Young Adult crowd, I was appalled. Everything about Retro Geeks screams “dumbed down.” With the recent surge back into reading for the YA crowd, strong plot oriented books like Harry Potter and Hunger Games are gaining the spotlight and proving that the YA kids are mature enough to handle the different types of themes thrown at them. Bryson should do a little research and rely on her readers enough to allow them to pick up on context clues and inferences on their own, rather than spoonfeeding every single detail down their throats for fear of missing a look or. Let your audience experience the story and trust in their reading comprehension! Remember the golden rule! Show, don’t tell.
The only positive I can come up with for Retro Geeks is that this book is fairly digestible, at only 93 pages. Though at the same time, how hard is it to edit 93 pages? There are so many instances where Bryson’s grammatical errors manage to detract from the laughable plot that I thought my brain might explode from the sheer ridiculousness of it all. Ofs turned into ifs and ons were ins with commas vomited into places they had no business being. Though Seven Hells forbid that “Siouxsie Sioux” be misspelled. I mean really, can we get at least one reread?
While I wont ruin the surprise if the girls make it out okay in the end, (Hint: They do.) Retro Geeks and the Amazingly Misleading Title ultimately turns into the bastard offspring of throwing the movie Mean Girls and an older YA novel The Great Lakeside High Experiment by Neil R Shelden (seriously, did no one else read this book?) into a blender along with a gallon of pink Baby Sitters Club flavored water. Retro Geeks is a poor attempt at empowering girls to just be themselves through constant categorization and cutting the rest of the population down to hack it. In the end, I don’t feel that Ally or Molly learn a real lesson or grow in any way. Because the moral of the story? Being a geek is simply “how you look” rather than who you are, and looking like a geek is socially unacceptable, so you can change that! But, be yourself and stuff. Take my advice and the wasted hour to heart when I say – save the 7 bucks for something more substantial. Like a vanilla latte. Or a 12 pack of Charmin Ultra. High five?