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Be More Chill a novel by Ned Vizzini

Laurie Delaney

Take a moment and bring yourself back to your most embarrassing moment in high school. That moment where you would have given anything to go back and make a change. Now imagine a world where you have a super computer installed in your brain that would have stopped you from ever getting to that moment. What would you give to have it? This is the question that Ned Vizzini asks us in his new novel Be More Chill.

Jeremy is not just your typical high school loser. He is the lowest life form on the food chain, living in a world where even the video game junkies use him as a sounding board for abuse. He is madly in love with one of the most popular girls in school, but knows his standing and therefore, his chances. When suddenly, one of his tormentors opens the doors to a whole new world. A world where he can swallow a tiny super computer called a squip. This system doesnít just help him avoid embarrassing moments, it actually teaches him to be cool. The squip speaks to him in the voice of Keanu Reeves (I wish I was kidding here, folks), and tells him everything from what to wear, what to say, when to say it, and works as a mental PDA. It stores phone #ís, tells him the time, and fills him in on the latest news before even the radio can announce it.

The super computer has set backs however. It canít function when Jeremy takes drugs our alcohol, which he learns during an amusing scene at a party where his squip starts speaking to him in Spanish after he decides to take ecstasy. Also, the Squip doesnít always do what itís told. Problems arise when Jeremy and the squip want to take two different paths. While Jeremy is only interested in the tantalizing Christine, the squip wants to lead him to girls who are higher up in the social class. Once the squip accepts the love of his life, Jeremy begins to pursue her at all cost. The chase continues until the moment of truth, where Jeremy decides to make a bold and daring statement in the middle of a school play, professing his love for her. Will Jeremy succeed? Youíll have to read the book to find out.

The story has several problems from the start. Besides being hit from all angles with product placements for Mountain Dew and Sony, Vizzini depends too much on current trends to attempt to sell his book to teens. At certain points he takes absurd liberties, such as having Eminem die in a freak accident while passing a street hockey game. The book also relies too much on buzzwords that he hopes will convince the reader heís with it and understands how they feel. He creates a story that ten years from now will be dated and stale. I mean seriously, would any high school kid you know read a book that talks about Bruce Springsteen every ten pages? Probably not.

From beginning to end, I had a love hate relationship with this book. Vizinniís writing is sensational, and he can keep you turning the pages. He throws out amusing anecdotes that keep the reader laughing, and Jeremyís character is someone anyone can relate to. Heís an under dog whoís being given a chance to have the edge heís been missing his entire life. You watch him go from a shy, frightened boy who spends his days making tally marks on his humiliation sheets (A list of all the embarrassing moments that happen in his day), to someone people look up to and admire. While the few others who have obtained a squip want it to be popular and fit the profile of what every teenager should want, Jeremy just wants the love of his life. It endears him to you, and makes you root for him until the end.

Ned Vizzini is clearly one of the better young writers to come out on the scene in recent years (At age 22, this is his second book, the first being Teen Angst? NaaahÖ), but at times his youth shows. He can tell a good story, but other factors get in the way. The constant product placement distracts the reader from the story, and too often he tries to force an image into the readers head, rather than allowing them to create there own. Though Iím not thrilled with all aspects of this story, it was a fun ride, and for someone who is in high school, itís probably a better read. I will say that when he has a few more years under his belt, and moves beyond tales of high school woes, Iíll be looking forward to it.

Be More Chill is available in stores this June.