book review: word nerd

Susin Nielsen’s Word Nerd is about a twelve-year-old kid named Ambrose whose mom is way overprotective. He makes friends with Cosmo, his landlord’s adult (and ex-con) son through Scrabble. It’s set in Vancouver (Kitsilano to be precise), and from the name-dropping of places they go, I feel confident I could find the block Ambrose would have lived on. There’s a peanut-allergy aspect to the character (he almost dies early on from jerks putting a peanut in his sandwich) but it feels like more of a justification for his mom to be overprotective. There’s also some talk of drugs and Ambrose stops Cosmo from slipping back into junkiedom.

Ambrose’s mom was very controlling and the book does try to get at why, but in a kid-focused kind of way. If I met Ambrose and wasn’t inside his head for the book, I’d find him an annoying twerp, much like Cosmo does at first, but he gets some of his obnoxiousness toned down as it goes. He helps Cosmo, Cosmo helps him, and they have to keep it secret from his mom.

It was a good kids book, maybe okay for the younger side of YA.

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