This book is commercialism on steroids! The characters are almost like superhero sales-people! What a weird concept. Hunter Braque is a Trendsetter or “cool hunter.” He goes out looking for the people who come up with new ideas on their own (known as Innovators). Then, he takes their ideas and brings them to a client (currently, he’s consulting for a 4-letter swooshy shoe brand which is only referred to by asides like this), who then market the new cool trend. When he meets Jen, a natural Innovator, the two end up sucked into a weird underground web of kidnapping, paka-paka seizure lighting, anarchist roller skaters, and purple dye shampoo. Sound weird? Oh yeah. But really, really good.
I have no idea where Scott Westerfeld gets his ideas, but his books are so unique. In So Yesterday, he turns the boring world of marketing and sales into an action-adventure plot, drawing on history, epidemiology, and pyramid strategy. Not every author could pull that off. I loved it. I wasn’t sure, going into it, how I would react – I don’t really like marketing and sales; I don’t really like action/adventure – but once again, Westerfeld proves he’s a master.
When I was reading this, Jason mentioned something about Westerfeld seeming very political in his books (none of which Jase has read, he’s just heard about them). In Uglies–Pretties–Specials, Westerfeld tackles beauty and plastic surgery and environmentalism. In Extras, it’s fame and media. In PEEPS, casual sex and STDs (Jason’s interpretation, not mine). In this, commercialism. To me, though, I don’t get the feeling that these are pushy political statements. I mean, the bad guys, from page 1, are the anti-consumerists! And while they may not end up being 100% bad, they certainly don’t end up 100% good, either. One of the things I really like about Westerfeld is that he seems to say there is no 100% right answer. There are always two sides to every story. As in: Yeah, plastic surgery and mind control is definitely not a good thing, but when you don’t control people, they do bad things like destroy the environment. There is never a perfect solution. To me, that feels very un-political. I like that. It gives us the chance to make up our own mind. No thought-system is rammed down our throats.
In the Westerfeld canon, I don’t think this book gets as much attention as it deserves. It isn’t part of a series, and it’s one of his earliest YA books. I wasn’t sure what I’d find when I opened it, but it was really good, and I highly recommend it. Not just because I love Westerfeld’s writing, either. The book itself was excellent.