“So Yesterday” was one of my favorite books of all time when I was in middle and high school. This was my first experience reading Westerfeld, and it was the first book I’d ever read that felt like something I could have written, that felt accessible and written from the same fast-wit and punchy disposition. It was edgy, but the fun edgy, like an adult writing cultural observations gleaned from twitter hashtags. I carried the same copy in my backpack from seventh grade through high school and read it until the cover fell off. The copy I read for this review was actually my original! Fun fact, I found a four leaf clover pressed into Chapter Fourteen. But more on that later.
The story follows Hunter, a high-school aged guy who is a “cool hunter”; an underplayed way of saying he’s a precursor to an Instagram Influencer. While on a hunt, Hunter meets Jen, and adventure ensues. Hunter, seeking his missing boss Mandy, and Jen seeking adventure in the bleak landscape of early oughts New York. They meet a group of people determined to undermine the trends and bring down the trendsetters that make them big, thereby finding Mandy. Through twists and failures of everyone involved we return to the same park, and the same bleakness. Two people brought together by shoelaces.
“So Yesterday” is written like a treatment for a movie which lends itself to being read in one sitting, something I’m guilty of even for this past read. The story is fast-paced and the reader is quite often smacked by new doors opening within the plot. The characters are all vaguely relatable, but also a really cool mixture of characters that I loved being able to project on when I was a kid. This book was also ahead of its time in a lot of ways, including very early on bringing up a problem that still persists today. Using Jen as his mouthpiece, he brings up the “Missing Black Woman Formation” (Westerfeld 14). This is described as a phenomenon where in any group of people, there is never a black woman, only black men. It is also eventually shrugged out of the room by other characters after a brief “hoo-ah” of agreement, much like it is in media today.
Another interesting thing Westerfeld employs is a healthy smattering of well-researched and well-executed mental fuckery. At the magazine launch party Hunter experiences various types of manipulation, between being fed copious amounts of alcohol and the seizure-inducing promotional cameras, all designed to embarrass the trendsetters in attendance at the party. These things contribute to the unraveling of the mystery and cultivate a really neat sense of wonder at how we are subliminally advertised to or directed towards decisions. The characters were relatable in that “cool older kid” way to middle school me, and in that “oh kids these days” way to adult me. In all this is an excellent quick read that has aged really well. One of the greatest injustices is that the tv/film option didn’t pan out before the book became “unreal” to the target demographic.
The four-leaf clover was a real treat though. It was pressed into Chapter Fourteen, which is sort of significant because the chapter opens with main character Hunter walking into the house in his new, improved, incognito look. His parents understandably overreact because he is seeing a new girl and coming home with new haircuts, but they also accept him and don’t chastise him, and that’s something I always wished for as a kid. It was a real treat, and at some point deserved the honor of pressing a four-leaf clover into.
Thank you so much for reading! I do apologize for the lack of substance in this initial essay, but it was the first selection of four, so I didn’t have much to work with yet. There will definitely be more said about this in the wrap-up following week four! How do you feel about this selection? Have you read it? Let me know in the comments below!