The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory, and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School by Alexandra Robbins
Genre: Nonfiction, geekery, high school, social science, boy am I glad high school is over
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Summary: Author Alexandra Robbins follows six high school outsiders through one year of school and attempts to explain why being different is a much better option. Storytelling and psychology combine in this insightful true novel about why the geeks shall inherit.
Did you know that all the weird little quirks that kept you friendless in high school could later go on to help you out there in the real world? Well according to Alexandra Robbins in her hope inducing work The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth, that is absolutely true. ::crosses fingers::
This book follows Danielle the Loner, Blue the Gamer, Whitney the Popular Bitch, Regan the Weird Girl, Eli the Nerd, Joy the New Girl, and Noah the Band Geek, and gives us peaks into their lives, from the lowest lows to the highest of highs. Like her other nonfiction works, this reads as part fiction and part nonfiction, with research to back up and expound upon the students Robbins’ writes about. Overall, it is very much like her novel Pledged except she took a greater part in entering the lives of her subjects. And it doesn’t talk about being blond and perky and perpetually vomiting up one’s meals.
The main thrust of the novel is Robbins’ invention of “quirk theory”. Simply put, quirk theory states that the things that make people different and “strange” in high school are what they will later learn to use to their advantage in outside life. In fact, these things will even come to be respected and revered. As a former high school outcast, I myself keep waiting for this very same thing to happen. Come on quirk theory, work your magic! To back up her theory, Robbins references known outcast success stories like J.K. Rowling, Tim Gunn, Lady Gaga, and Steven Spielberg (who was made fun of for being both a nerd and a jew- although not necessarily a Superjew. Regardless, he brings the Jew fire!).
The problem is that not everyone can accomplish this quirkiness, because in order to do so one has to be entirely committed to being their own person, and has to put other people’s perceptions out of their minds. Such nonconformity is often fought against. Robbins places a lot of the blame on society and schools themselves, which preach conformity over originality (or what RuPaul would call C.U.N.T.- cunning, uniqueness, nerve, and talent). Schools teach kids to want to conform, despite the fact that nonconformity is better in adult life. They teach that “normal” is better, and in turn kids strive to be more like their peers. Normal and boring. Yay America.
Throughout the novel there are also constant references to what Robbins refers to as the “cafeteria fringe”. These are the people excluded from school and society’s in-crowd. Basically, those without a lunch table to call their own. In high school we had something called unit lunch, which was a 52 minute block of time in which the entire school had lunch simultaneously. The Bibliomantics and I had a safe haven from being dubbed cafeteria fringe, a section of hallway we named Canada, although once a week we would abandon Canada and go to a classroom to play Lord of the Rings trivial pursuit with one of our teachers (who coincidentally wished he were Gandalf). Yeah, we were pretty damn cool.
The portion of the novel which resonated most with me was a discussion of seventh grade as being the meanest year of schooling. I could not agree more. In seventh grade I was kicked out of my lunch table because another girl thought I was too weird and strange to be friends with “the group” anymore. She also took my seat in homeroom and I had to sit next to the smelly girl (I kind of have this curse where I get stuck in enclosed places with smelly people- including a nine hour plane ride home from Vienna). I was teased for being flat chested, which karma took care of because that girl didn’t develop past seventh grade. I even won second place (AKA the silver medal) in an academic Olympics we had in middle school, and when I got back to our classroom no one said congratulations, not even the teacher. It wasn’t until they heard the hubbub that the gold medal winner’s classroom made when he entered that they cared. So they cheered louder than the other classroom, but only so they could win in terms of fake enthusiasm. Good for you Cassie, we only care about you to show up other people who actual care about their classmate. End sarcasm.
As far as “characters” (can you call them that in nonfiction?) go I feel the strongest connection to Regan the Weird Girl. We are told that Regan gets “literary chills”, “adored English classes” and was “obsessed with dinosaurs”. She also “watched the three original Star Wars movies and turned everything Luke said to Yoda into innuendo”. This in itself is very representative of myself and my fellow Bibliomantic Kelly. In fact, I’m pretty sure we did this our freshman year, except it features sodomy in relation to almost every character, with an especial fondness toward Jabba the Hutt.
Overall, it is the things that label the characters as being weird that resonate with me the most. For example, people thought Eli was weird for liking Grace Kelly and Alfred Hitchcock. Annmarie (a character mentioned in only one chapter) was “ridiculed… [for] her atheism, and her love of literature”, she was also “obsessed with zombies”. I have no problem with any of these so called “weird” traits. In fact, I think it’s these traits that make these people interesting, and would probably make me want to be their friends.
I enjoy hearing fun/quirky facts about people. It definitely explains my love of Amelie and most Chuck Palahnuik novels (with the exception of his nonfiction work and Haunted). There is also a girl named Laney (again mentioned in passing) who once licked a cat just to see how it would taste. “It tastes like cat!” she is quoted as saying. She also “talks to her hamsters in funny accents”, “reads the dictionary”, and “drinks her milk with food coloring”. Sorry, but I would take Laney over a “normal” person any day. If liking zombies and Hitchcock is what makes people in our society weird, than you can call me the Queen of Weird. And you are most certainly not invited to my Tim Burton themed 25th birthday party.
My one problem with the book is the extreme focus on high school. I wish The Geeks Shall Inherit got into more how we as readers can use quirk theory to better our non-school focused existence. As a recent college graduate, I need to find a way to take what makes me different and turn it into something marketable to an employer, a fact which has become even harder in this poor job market. Had Robbins touched on this a little, even in an epilogue, and Geeks would have certainly been a five star novel.
-The characters are intriguing and you grow to care about them
-The psychological studies enhance the chapters and provide scientific insight into how conformity and noncomformity work
-Gave me a fun new word to play with: Superjew
-Made me really really glad that I didn’t ever join my own hate club
-Not enough focus on how quirk theory can be used in a proactive way
-Needs more cowbell
Seriously, everything needs more cowbell. ::puts on Queen of Weird crown::