cover art for Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities

my very own superhero

K

now thy audience’ some high priest of media now lost to the mists of time once preached, and Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities, Blogger Mike Jung’s freshman novel for middle-grade readers packed with heavily-capitalized text and brightly-colored illustrations, serves that sentiment with near-religious devotion in content as well as presentation.

Geeks’ hero, 12-year-old Vincent Wu, is president of the smallest but most sincere Captain Stupendous fan club in Copperplate City. Stupendous, a real-life superhero, keeps Vincent’s hometown safe from all manner of villainy, domestic and extraterrestrial. Vincent and his two-man posse can tell you anything you might want to know about the habits and history of their superhero of choice. Well, it’s pretty much all they’ve got going on, really, until the arrival of a new super villain—mega-robot Professor Mayhem—the kidnapping of Vincent’s crush, Polly Winnicott-Lee, and the increasingly bizarre behavior of Captain Stupendous himself takes all three boys from their comfortable role as spectators to contenders in the battle for peace

For young readers transitioning from the popular comic/novel hybrids pioneered by Dav Pilkey and now ubiquitous in franchises like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Big Nate, Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities represents a logical next-step for readers who find themselves beyond the perils of the playground Cheese Touch only to discover themselves face-to-face with the difficulties of dating. Cheers to writer Jung for going out of his way to try to create strong female characters for Vincent to fight alongside and for working overtime to make the awkward, early teen fumbling toward connection as real as if we were still sitting in those bad desk chairs, waiting for the bell to ring.

A forced quality to the slang-heavy dialogue in Geeks gave me pause, though, so I passed the book along to 10-year-old Roy for a second opinion before writing this review.

“It was a good book,” Roy said when he’d finished. “It was funny and had a lot of adventure, but if my teacher was here, she would say [the author] needed better word choice. Like, we have the word ‘big’ in here where we could use the word ‘humongous’. Also, he barely has any metaphors and similes.”

Sure, he’s only two weeks out of fourth grade and I’d have to go back myself to check his opinion of the whole metaphor and simile thing, but what he said reinforced my belief in readers just like Roy: you can write for a middle school audience—heck, you can write in the first-person as a middle schooler—but take it easy with the caps lock key and the onomotopoeic groaning noises. They can hear you just fine without them.


As always, thanks to Bookworks, Albuquerque’s premier bookstore, for the opportunity to discover and enjoy a book I would never have stumbled upon otherwise. Want to give a gift to a child that will turn heads and start a discussion? Be subversive. Buy a book. And do it at Bookworks!