Ned Vizzini began writing for The New York
Press at the age of fifteen. At nineteen, he had his first book
published, Teen Angst? Naaah?. He was also author of three
other books for young adults including The Other Normals,
Be More Chill, the first young adult novel ever chosen as a
Today Show Book Club pick, and which is the basis of the musical of
the same name, and It's Kind of a Funny Story, which NPR
named #56 of the "100 Best-Ever Teen Novels" of all time and which
is the basis of the film of the same name. The last novel published
before his death, House of Secrets, was a middle-grade fantasy
novels co-written with filmmaker Chris Columbus; it debuted on the
New York Times best-seller list.
Ned's stories often drew on his struggles with anxiety and depression, yet they had a strong comic bent. His fans appreciated his honesty and sense of humor. He was also very generous to other writers. In 2005, he started the Barnes & Noble Teen Writers Workshops, which he ran until 2012.
Who wouldn't want an ingestible super-computer-in-a-pill designed to make the person who swallows it way cooler than he or she ever was? When shy, dorky Jeremy Heere learns of the device-known as a squip-he knows he must do whatever it takes (in his case, steal and sell a portion of his unpleasant aunt's Beanie Baby collection) to raise the $600 necessary to get one. Soon the squip is installed in his brain, dispensing such crucial nuggets as "You have to talk as per rap-slash-hip-hop, the dominant music of youth culture" and "Step one is that you stop pacing and get a new shirt, Jeremy." All this is in service of his ultimate goal: winning the affections of choosy and self-assured Christine. Vizzini (Teen Angst? Naaah...) gives a fresh twist to familiar messages about being loyal to one's friends and true to oneself, thanks to the over-the-top plot and tangy narrative. Readers grappling with their own social status will appreciate the fact that while the notion of coolness may be satirized here, it's certainly not demonized or dismissed. Although the squip's advice is not infallible, Jeremy's life really does improve once he polishes his social skills. Semi-cool, would-be cool and even cool readers are likely to be entertained by the wry, nearly anthropological observations of the high school caste system, from a 23-year-old author who, as a teenager, wrote for the New York Press and the New York Times Magazine. Ages 13-up. (June) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Gr 9 Up-This wacky, irreverent novel stars an uncouth, smart, nerdy, but sympathetic antihero, Jeremy Heere. The teen actually keeps Humiliations Sheets on which he tallies the number and types of affronts that he encounters in his daily life at his New Jersey high school and finds solace in the evenings viewing Internet porn. When the girl he secretly loves is cast opposite him in a school play, he decides to find a way to break the mold he's built around himself so that she will understand and reciprocate his admiration. Buying an extreme bit of illegal nanotechnology in the back room of a Payless shoe store, Jeremy swallows the "squip," which embeds itself in his brain and advises him on all the cool things to say and do to impress Christine. Vizzini has devised a hilarious alternate reality, very close to the one available to Jeremy's real peers-Eminem is a pop-culture presence (although he has recently died in this world). The squip malfunctions when Jeremy takes Ecstasy (not only miscuing Jeremy but also defaulting to Spanish), and so on. There are genuine and serious issues of morality folded into this story, including Jeremy's dilemma of how to make himself both attractive and sincere in Christine's perception. Like Janet Tashjian's The Gospel According to Larry (Holt, 2001), this novel has substance as well as flash, and lots of appeal to bright teens. Although it is literary and funny, the blatant sexual themes and use of profanity may limit its acceptability in schools.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
"Vizzini anatomizes high school lust and social scheming without any condescending reassurance. If it weren't so funny, his first novel might be too painful to read."