For me as a reader, if you’re going to write a book about nerd life and geek culture, you better know your stuff. It’s hard to think of a genre with a more unforgiving audience. If you need proof, just wait for the next superhero movie casting announcement and watch the great wars of flame be fought amongst the fields of the Internet.
I would know. I am a nerd. I am a geek. I write about superheroes often, where they’re from, why they do what they do, how they inspire people and which company’s brand of superhero is better.
So it was with a guarded eye that I began The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash. The colorful cover showed a jilted young lover, sitting by himself amongst abandoned flowers, while wearing a superhero costume. Nicely done, but let’s see how the actual story’s geek credential is.
I’m pleased to admit, the credentials are superb. It doesn’t take Tash long to show off her nerd bona fides, and it’s done effortlessly and in passing, as a true geek would do. The story within Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love is sprinkled with so many pop culture/sci-fi/comic book Easter eggs that if she didn’t already know these mythologies by heart then she had to have done years of research.
Tash even comes up with an interesting mythology all her own. The characters fawn over the stories of a reclusive writer, Robert Zinc, and his sprawling epic, The Chronicles of Althena. An epic which would make for a good series of stories on its own, by the way.
First hurdle cleared, and magnificently.
Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love introduces us to Long Island teenagers Graham and his best friend Roxy, with whom he has fallen in love. When the aforementioned Robert Zinc is reported to make a rare appearance at the New York Comic Con, Graham decides that this is the opportunity to reveal his true feelings for Roxy.
And so, the Quest begins. Mirroring the fables we love, our hero and heroine must now acquire passage, dodge overprotective parents, give up vaunted treasure (a Giant Size X-Men #1? This is serious!), and finally achieve their goals and confess their true feelings.
Naturally, things don’t go smoothly. This is where Tash excels. She makes her protagonists realistic to the point of painful recognition. Speaking as an awkward nerd myself, it was all too easy to identify with Graham’s point of view. I have lived life in his shoes.
Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love also brings out very real moments, and honest conversations about the nature of love. One talk Graham has with his father during a car ride is a candid, raw, and honest look at how and why somebody loves someone else, and if there is life afterwards.
The overall result is sort of what you would get if you were to cross a John Hughes movie with The Big Bang Theory with a dash of Lord of the Rings. Plenty of nerd references, wacky situations, but all motivated by earnest characters with real heart.
Being a New York City lover also helped my appreciation of the book. It actually hit me right where I live, with characters that could have been my own friends.
This is the third book by Sarvenaz Tash, but it reads like it’s her two hundredth. Although technically classified as “young adult,” it carries a far more mature and lasting impression, as do those John Hughes movies.
As a father, as a geek, as a lover of New York City, comic books, and a hopeless romantic who still likes the song “Don’t You Forget About Me,” I cannot recommend this read strongly enough.
Whether you like love stories or comic books, adventurous quests or The Breakfast Club, either singly or mixed in any combination, this book is you, regardless of your age. Keep an eye out for Sarvenaz Tash, because she is going places. You can thank me later.