The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love: A Book Review

geeks-guide-to-unrequited-love

I bought The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love last year while working on my own novel for NaNoWriMo. As someone who loves conventions, cosplay, and geek/nerd life in general, I knew that I would love this book as soon as I read the summary.

The “geek” in question from the title of the book is sixteen year old Graham William Posner, “lanky, pale, glasses, with a penchant for fantasy worlds.” He has a crush on his best friend, Roxy and hopes that going to New York Comic Con with her would provide him with the opportunity for him to confess his feelings, especially when one of the guests at NYCC is Robert Zinc, a reclusive comic book writer who is stepping out of the shadows for the first time in forever. Of course, things don’t go the way Graham hopes, especially when Roxy hits it off with a guy she meets at the con.

As Graham tries to get the best NYCC experience possible and impress Roxy in the process, the reader is treated to a very genuine perspective of what it’s like to be at a con: the costumes, the merch, the panels, and  all the unique events that fans get to go to. All the while,  Graham continually fails at impressing Roxy and eventually learns that his feelings are unrequited.

What makes this book work is that you really root for Graham and he never acts like he’s entitled to Roxy’s love. He gets jealous of the new guy, but he eventually learns that it’s okay to not get the girl. The book may not end with the conventional happily ever after, but I still love it because by the time the story ends, you see how much Graham has matured and his desires change towards things bigger than just getting the girl.

I recommend this book to all my nerdy friends and to people who can learn a thing or two about being in love. We’ve all experienced unrequited love and this book shows how people can deal with it in a healthy way without friendships taking collateral damage. It’s refreshing to find a story that focuses more on selfless love and friendship rather than the tired love triangles and “pretty people problems” you see in every other YA novel.

We need more books like this!

The Story of Monica Summers: Secret Agent

(based on a true story)

It was a cold November afternoon. I was out with my handler on a routine mission to retrieve the large amounts of TTPh and drop it off at the designated location. TTPh was a powerful chemical that induced sleep and in the wrong hands, it could be used as a knockout gas or poison. I was given special gloves so that the chemical wouldn’t get on my hands.

The mission started with a stakeout in the distribution center. I passed the time by reading the latest installment of the Joan and Randy detective series. Finally, I saw a window of opportunity.

But just as I left the car, my handler and I were ambushed. We had been made. Enemy spies came out of nowhere. My handler and I fought them off as best as we could, but I got knocked out. When we woke up, I found that all my spy equipment and my personal belongings were gone.

We reported back to the Cathedral Agency Base to fill out the paperwork and make sure that all the info on the spy equipment was erased. But I wasn’t out of the woods quite yet. I was called to the conference room for a debriefing. A tall, stern-looking woman stood at the head of the room.

“Mother,” I said. Mother was her code name.

“We hit a problem,” Mother said. “The tech we can clear out, but they can still trace you. You have to go into hiding.”

“Where am I gonna go?”

Another woman entered the room. I recognized her face from the newspaper stories. It was The Anchoress, the head of the undercover ops division, code name PathCath.

“Mother has informed me about the situation, Monica Summers,” The Anchoress said. “You’ll stay in hiding with us for now.”

“Will I ever go out into the field again?”

“Not for another 60 days,” Mother said.

I looked to Mother and then to The Anchoress. I decided to go with the undercover ops training.

PathCath was a completely different world from my usual grab-and-drop missions. But somehow, it felt so much like home as soon as I got there. I spent the next few months training, learning various techniques, and getting to know my coworkers.

I immediately hit it off with two spies codenamed Super 8 and Mutant Enemy because we were all admirers of the best covert spy team in the world: The Slayer and her partner, Captain Peroxide. The Crescat was a talented sketch artist and profiler and her partner, DeusEtMachina was the gadget-making genius. We hit it off because we were both fans of a spy novel series from England, chronicling tales of The Doctor and The Companions. The Dark Lord and his partner Fisch were master interrogators, able to get a rise out of the most hardened criminals. I joined them on a mission to capture a conspiracy theorist and enemy spy codename The Whirlwind, who targeted the head of the midwest division of the undercover ops, codename Firestarter. I also kept tabs on the Deacon and on The Traveller, who were both out on field missions.

After the 60 days passed, I was finally cleared to go back onto the field.

“So what’s my mission?” I asked The Anchoress.

“Your mission is to gather information and report it to us,” she said.

I nodded and smiled as she gave me my ID with my new code name: The Storyteller.

“I’m on the case,” I said.

Lent Day 14: Faith, Fandoms, and Fairy Tales

Although Fr. Robert’s meditation for today has nothing to do with my post, I’m gonna share it anyway.

While surfing the internet, I found a series of videos from the Preaching Friars YouTube that looks at Harry Potter through a Catholic perspective. You have no idea how awesome it is when things in culture can be seen through the eyes of faith.

In my college days, I had 2 sets of friends: one group of friends were Catholic, strong in their faith. The only problem was that excluding a handful of people, it was hard to talk about stuff other than religion, literature, and current events. It was good that I was growing in my faith, but back then I loved watching Glee and listened to Top 40 music. (Mea culpa.) The other set of friends shared my interests in TV and movies, but weren’t as religious as I was.

Now I find that I’m not the only one out there who compares popes to Time Lords  and sees a lot of Catholicism in everything I watch like anime and video games.

But why the desire to integrate faith and culture?

Fiction as a whole was born from mythology and fairy tales. Myths were stories told to explain why things happened or to inspire the people through the examples of characters like Odysseus. Fairy tales were told for similar reasons. Tolkein wrote this awesome essay about fairy tales that I highly recommend you guys read. GK Chesterton said: “Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.”

In a similar way, Harry Potter and all the other fandoms in mainstream culture have become our fairy tales. They all teach us to have courage or something else about life that we have to overcome.

But we can’t let our fandoms blind us or consume us because in the end, they are fiction. They can’t become an escape from reality. Doug Walker of Channel Awesome goes into this in his video “When is a Movie Just a Movie?” Only apply what he said about film to anything that has a following, like a TV show or books. When it comes to anything we love, we have to practice the idea of detachment and indifference, which I will go into further detail sometime this week.

Today, I want you to think about how the things you love could be seen in the eyes of faith. If it doesn’t seem to be such, why is that thing in your life?

How to Portray Religion in Fiction Without Causing a Riot

It seems so easy to paint religion as evil in fiction. But in my honest opinion Evil Religion (especially corrupt Christianity/Catholicism) is a cliche that needs to DIE. Ditto with the stereotypical pedophile priests, sexy nuns, loud overenthusiastic preachers, annoying Jewish mothers, and terrorist Muslims. However, I’m not advocating that religion in fiction should be portrayed in the other extreme, with constant Jesus Symbolism and heavy-handed guilt tripping.

The best examples of fictional religious works that portray religion as good without being heavy-handed are the works of two authors: CS Lewis and JRR Tolkein. Although both of them are Christian, they have a lot of secular fans. Tolkein especially because he didn’t intend for anything in LOTR to be allegorical. (But then again he’s Catholic. Catholics and allegory go together like bread and wine.) But portraying religion in a good light isn’t limited to fantasy.

A good way to show religion without bashing it or lavishing too much praise is to have characters of different faiths and figure out a common ground. I recently learned that Pope Francis used to be on a radio show with a Protestant and a Jew and the three of them would talk about different topics. Pope Francis and the other two hosts are still friends. Another example of this is a book by Peter Kreeft called Between Heaven and Hell which has CS Lewis, Aldous Huxley, and John F. Kennedy in Purgatory discussing religion.

If you don’t want characters to debate religion or if religion isn’t part of the conflict, show how a character’s faith or lack thereof drives him. But again, don’t use the whole “If I do a lot of good things, I’ll get good karma or go to Heaven” cliche. (It’s also a heresy, but that’s another post.) Instead, show a character whose faith has benefited his life so much that he wants to show it to the world through good works and altruism. Or show a character who has a lot of problems but holds onto their faith not because it’s a crutch, but because it’s their compass, their guiding light in the storm. Priests, nuns, and ministers can be great mentor figures. Not all epic stories have to include wise old monks, after all.

A common ground in many faiths is unconditional love. Buddhists call it loving-kindness. Christianity calls it agape. Jews call it ahavat olam. In contrast to the cliches of romantic comedies, forbidden love, and sexual taboos, unconditional love shines as the ultimate form of true love. (Just watch Frozen!) If you want to include religion in fiction, figure out how that particular faith shows love.

But why write about religion at all?

It seems like society wants to keep religion out of the other things in life because religion to them gets in the way of what they want to do. To the mainstream frame of mind, religion is “holier than thou” with all of its “thou shalt nots,” funeral picketing, and conservative politics. People need to realize that for better and for worse, religion is a part of everyday life and that maybe people should look beyond the often accepted “belief” that religion should be limited to Sunday mornings in a church and nowhere else. In reality, religion is a driving force for a lot of people. And no two people from the same faith are alike. In Catholicism alone, we have hundreds of saints that act as role models whose stories are as varied as comic book superheroes. But that’s another post.

Tl;dr Religion in and of itself is NOT evil. Fiction needs to fix that.