Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Unwanted Books Review: Smart Guys

I've recently decided to start reading and review some of the less popular books on my online trade lists. Think of it as the Land of Misfit Books; titles that I don't seem to be able to give away, despite the instant access to millions of readers.

The first book I've chosen to showcase is the young adult romance novel Smart Guys. This book has been sitting on my trade list at since 2006 without a nibble, despite having had other books from the Crosswinds series requested. After awhile, that makes me curious enough to give it a read.

“Meet the Kids in Group Three.
Dave: He just wants to have a good time – and to get to know a certain girl better.
Taylor: Dave’s dream girl. She’d make Miss America look like a dog. The only trouble with Taylor is, she doesn’t know how to relax.
Benson: He could star in a nerd movie. Definitely the clumsy-genius sort.
Frieda: She’s cute but hyper, with a nonstop mouth. She’s also great at organizing – one guy in particular.
James: With his high-fashion clothes, he may look well-put-together, but he’s a real airhead until he gets in a lab.
Five special teens are spending the summer working on a top-secret project. Just how much trouble can they get into?”

Quite a bit, it turns out. Especially after they decide to look into the supposedly accidental death of their project’s original inventor, and suddenly find themselves knee-deep in a murder investigation and conspiracy reaching as high as their school’s administration, and quite possibly the US Military.

Smart Guys is a part of the shortly lived young adult Harlequin imprint Crosswinds, for which Carrie Lewis wrote a few novels, this being one of them. While it is admittedly a light and fun read with the romantic elements existing on a strictly After School Special level, there is no denying that it also bares a strong resemblance to the 1985 cult classic comedy Real Genius, which was loosely based on actual events at Caltech. Both feature recklessly fun-loving genius main characters that team up with a ragtag group of highly intelligent misfits to sabotage their institution’s insidious plans.

But the similarities don’t stop there. Some of the book’s plot twists and scenes are right out of the film, such as the after-hours pool party and the secret military project, and the characters of Dave and Frieda are almost identical to those played by Val Kilmer and Michelle Meyrink. Considering that the book was published in 1988, three years after Real Genius hit the screen, and it isn’t hard to guess where Lewis got her inspiration.

That isn’t to say the book isn’t good. Lewis has a very light and breezy style that makes the story breeze by, and the characters and dialog are much more inventive than the lame back-cover description. This is definitely the perfect Young Adult romance novel for someone looking for a Revenge of the Nerds without the adult humor. Just don’t be surprised if you experience déjà vu while reading it.

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