I hate being late. Especially when I don't have a choice in the matter. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind a Wednesday trip to the dentist. In Geek terms, it's the closest you'll ever get to the thrill of bunking off school. There's something vaguely satisfying about lying back in a chair, with a mouth full of fingers and looking up a man's hairy nostrils, knowing that your mates are up to their oreilles in French. And given how much I brosse mes dents, there's little or no chance of Mr Morgan whipping out anything remotely like a drill.
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Published by Stripes Publishing in April 2013
Archie is a Geek to his core - and despite having a Close Encounter with Sarah at the beginning of term, he's still completely clueless about girls. Enter Clare - an older woman (she's sixteen) who Archie meets on his weekend trip to see his dad and his nightmare step-mum, Jane. Clare and Archie hit it off - and she comes up with a brilliant, foolproof way to get their crushes to notice them: pretend to be going out with one another! What can possibly go wrong? With school, Sarah, a fake girlfriend and his insane family to deal with, Archie and his mates step-up the nerdiness and go Live Action Role-play gaming. Ladies and gentlemen, we are entering a new era...
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How nice it was to have Archie back in my life! Mission Improbable picks up pretty much where the first Geekhood book finished off. The style is the same; first person, inner monologue firmly in place and in good form. And yet Archie is different, he’s grown somehow mature. Like a fine cheese.
I found I liked this book even more than Close Encounters of the Girl Kind because of this. Yes there are funny bits and cringe worthy bits and the nerdyness is still firmly embedded. But Archie’s interaction with Sarah is less idyllic and dreamy. He’s seeing her as a real person, flaws and all and, I think, liking her all the more for it. I really didn’t like Sarah and certainly couldn’t see why Archie was so attracted to her in the first novel, but Mission Improbable has re-invented her and she works much better as a character and potential love interest for Archie.
The great thing about this and the previous book is just how much it works for readers of both sexes. I feel this is something that’s missing in the majority of YA novels but Robb, despite a male lead character, manages to mix comedy, romance (albeit fumbling) and friendship in a way that appeals to all. The way Archie continues to deal with his parent’s breakup and the new families being established is also at various times touching and heartbreaking and will strike a chord with so many youngsters out there today.
But for those of you less interested in this deep stuff, yes there are still monumental moments of geekery and yes yet again Archie finds himself in some gross situations. I refer here in particular to what has become known as ‘The Werewolf Bit’ and will say no more. You’ll know it when you read it. Ears ears.
Mission Improbable is also a do-it-yourself guide to LARPing. Yep, Archie and the boys reach new heights of geekdom by dressing up as elves and dwarves and whacking other people dressed as orcs. I’d heard of LARPing before I’ll admit. But I would never admit to wanting to give it a go until now... Participating in it with Archie made it sound awesome!
As previously, despite the first person perspective, the supporting characters are a real joy. Archie has made real progress accepting step-dad Tony (formerly The Tosser) and his new found maturity sees him try to mend bridges between his dad and new step-siblings. But Matt, Ravi and Beggsy remain my favourite characters and the growing friendship between them, Sarah and her best friend can only be good news for our geeky comrades.
It’s another thoroughly enjoyable and absorbing book from Andy Robb, with an ending that is both surprising and heart warming for all the right reasons.