Published by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) on November 15th 2016
Genres: Social Issues, YA
Source: ARC borrowed thru Around the World ARC Tours
Pen Lupo is sick and tired of hiding who she is. On the outside, Pen is popular, quiet, and deferential to her boyfriend. On the inside, however, Pen is honest, opinionated--and not quite sure that she's like other girls. Do they have urges like she does?
His classmates may consider him a nerd, but Benedict Pendleton knows he's destined for great things. All he has to do is find a worthy girlfriend, and his social station will be secured. Sure, Benedict is different--but that's what he likes about himself.
When fate intervenes, both Pen and Benedict end up at the same vacation resort for winter break. Despite their differences, the two are drawn together. But is there such a thing as happily ever after for a nympho and a nerd?
~ Told alternately between Benedict and Pen, the chapters are so short that it made it easy to read more than I intended to my first sit down with the book.
~ Which is a good thing, because I was not sure I wanted to read the whole thing. Benedict and Pen are interesting characters, but so many other characters felt more like caricatures. Some get more fleshed out as the book goes on, but there’s a lot of extreme behavior. Like the popular kids are super mean, and the religious people are super judgmental and intolerant (which I see constantly in YA, and I get that there’s some truth in it, but come on, not all people who go to church are asshats only one or two centuries removed from burning our weird asses at the stake).
~ I get kind of SPOILERISH with this review, so if you don’t want to be SPOILED AND TOTALLY RUINED FOR LIFE, you should stop reading
~ So, Benedict has to be on the spectrum. And I find it hard to believe that he wouldn’t have been diagnosed in school in this day and age. That was another hurdle I had to get over. He’s a bit like Sheldon, only less socially adept.
~ And despite the fact that Pen masturbates (interestingly, not a word I use a lot on my blog) multiple times a day, her mother has never caught her doing it (you can bet that won’t last once you start reading her story). I had a tough time with this aspect of Pen’s personality. Not that she possessed a high sexual drive, that part was refreshing in a female character, but because the book is written by a dude, I couldn’t tell if I found it more liberating (yes, girl, go on and masturbate 4 times a day!) or a little creepy (like dudes wish teenage girls masturbated 4 times a day). So if this paragraph made you uncomfortable… The Nerdy and the Dirty might not be for you.
~ Here’s what worked for me. Both Benedict and Pen are unique and flawed. Pen, in particular, has chosen to hide her freak flag, but doing so has taken away from who she is. Their friendship and romance helps them both because they’re both able to really be themselves with one another. However, they first get together far away from their peers, so the real test comes when they get back to their high school.
~ The adults in this book are super ridiculous.
~ So why did this book get 3 stars from me? Well, after not quitting it, I decided I liked the message that you shouldn’t have to be fake to have friends. That the type of friends who would want you to be fake aren’t worth having. That’s Pen’s journey. Benedict’s story is more about accepting the love and friendship from people who are actually supportive and there for you, instead of trying to please your sociopathetic (yes, I made that word up), narcissistic father.
Benedict Pendleton- The Nerdy and socially awkward part of the title.
Pen Lupe- the Dirty and popular part of the title.
Robert- Benedict’s only friend, has a hopeless crush on Pen.
Paul- Pen’s popular boyfriend with a very narrow world view.
Iris- Pen’s best friend, despite her being besties with Stacy.
Stacy- popular mean girl who Pen hangs out with because they’re in the same group.
Father Jeremy- the one semi- religious figure who’s not a huge tool.
Mr. Pendleton- Benedict’s very smart, very rich father who is best known for writing a book on how to be perfect. You can imagine how warm and fuzzy that makes him.
Mrs. Pendleton- Benedict’s very kind and very patient mother. She and Father Jeremy are the only 2 adults not completely heinous.
Mrs. Lupe- Pen’s ultra religious mother who fears constantly for her daughter’s soul and fights almost constantly with Pen’s dad.
Mr. Lupe- runs a fantastic pizza joint, loves Pen, but fights almost constantly with Pen’s mom.
Father Jeremy breaks a confidence in order to tell Pen something about her past and her parents. They have such an honest, heart felt talk.
Stop the Clock:
The Nerdy and the Dirty is not going to be for everyone- honestly I was close to DNFing it the first 70 pages or so. But I think there’s an audience for this book- a whole group of Benedict’s and Pen’s who need to know they aren’t alone in being weird. That there is no normal, and that there are people out there who will accept you for who you are so that you don’t have to go through your whole life faking to fit in.
The Nerdy and the Dirty gets a Midnight Book rating of: