Review: Con-nerd – five different words that mean great

I saw Oliver Phommavanh talk at a recent literary festival. He’s an amazing confluence of author, toy-geek, teacher and stand-up comic. He had kids and parents alike in stitches. So we bought a couple of his books.

Oliver’s Con-nerd is a lovely story of a young nerd who manages to smoothly transition from nerd to geek.

Connor’s mother wants him to be a doctor and bring honour to his family. To this end he is tutored and studies endlessly with the goal of getting him into a selective high school. Connor wants to draw comics and get together with the girl of his young dreams.

The beauty of this story is that although there is a predictably positive ending, Oliver steers his young protagonist there without sacrificing his essential intelligence and geekiness. Connor does learn to play a sport and gets a makeover to fix his hair and clothes, but at the same time he’s pulling others in his orbit into a love of comics and art.

I love the idea that there can be a smooth transition rather than success meaning only the complete rejection of all things nerdy, intelligent or obsessive.

The book is beautifully written and full of both wry and full-on humour. One of my favourite lines comes when Connor’s mother instructs him to start reading a dictionary. Connor thinks, “That’s great. When I get bashed up, I’ll know five different words that mean help.”

Con-nerd is a great young adult read – it comes highly recommended by my whole family. And if you get a chance with your kids to see Oliver Phommavanh speak, don’t miss it.

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