Boy Proof, a compassionate young adult novel about a weird, smart, angry girl

I've just read Cecil Castellucci's 2005 debut novel Boy Proof and it's delightful to discover that she's every bit as talented a novelist as she is a graphic novel writer (The Plain Janes, the first volume in the outstanding Minx graphic novel series) and a rock musician (Nerdy Girl/Bite).

Boy Proof is the story of "Egg" (AKA Victoria), a self-made outcast in Melrose Prep, who is smart as anything about everything, except herself. She's an overachieving loner, a weirdo, and a science fiction geek, and she's alienated from both of her driven, entertainment-industry parents. She is a perpetual half-rage, but never really sure why, and she can't help but see the world as a hostile and foul place.

As the novel unfolds (and we get a tour of Egg's many deep fascinations and the people in her life who like her no matter what) she learns, by inches, to let go of some of the anger and figure out how to be happy as well as smart and driven.

Smart and miserable seem to go together so often, especially for kids, and Castellucci's clearly been there. The book brims with affection for Egg and her crummy attitude, and it's easy to empathize with her even as you hope for her to find a way free. This is the perfect hopeful and compassionate book for the sharp weirdo in your life. Boy Proof


  1. thanks cory. my 14-yr smart weirdo daughter is having a tough time transitioning to a new high school. i have reserved this book for her at my public library.

  2. My wife and I both at public and secular prep schools felt very strong general pressure to find a boy/girl friend. Our society sends such mixed messages how can you expect anything but confusion and stress from high school kids.
    My wife and I have many friends who grew up in the very orthodox Jewish world and they are horrorified by the expected underage social/sexual interaction in American society.
    I was saved from the worst of the social pressure being a high school geek and thinking I had no chance I didnt try to play the girls, I played D&D, hacked, and went camping.

  3. “She is a perpetual half-rage, but never really sure why, and she can’t help but see the world as a hostile and foul place. ”

    “She’s an overachieving loner”

    I don’t think the author thought their cunning character development plan through all the way, either that or ‘overachieving’ doesn’t mean what Cory thinks it does?

  4. #6: Inboulder, I’m confused. What do YOU think “overachieving” means?

    Overachieving doesn’t have any emotional implications at all, at least up here in Canada.

  5. Jerril @6: Inboulder is probably confusing this word with the Flemish phrase “Overa achie ving”, which means “Warm, outgoing, and beloved by all”.

    It’s a pretty common mistake, especially in Belgium.

  6. That bright orange shifty blur in the bottom of your candy-cane-striped shopping bad full of black sorrow is not going away, sister. I mean it.

  7. #7,8,9

    I’m a little worried that I have to explain this obvious disconnect. This is so blatant an error I hope what Cory meant was ‘underachiever,’ at least I hope so.

    “Overachievement is an educational label applied to students, who perform better than their peers when normalized for the instructor’s perceptions of background, intelligence or talent. The implicit presumption is that the “overachiever” is achieving superior results through excessive effort.

    Does it make sense that someone who “is a perpetual half-rage, but never really sure why, and she can’t help but see the world as a hostile and foul place” also displays “superior results through excessive effort” as a student in school?

    1. Does it make sense that someone who “is a perpetual half-rage, but never really sure why, and she can’t help but see the world as a hostile and foul place” also displays “superior results through excessive effort” as a student in school?

      Sounds like many of our readers, including me.

  8. @#14

    You’re a poorly thought out character with nonsensical traits designed to illicit emotional impact without delivering any real substance? Yeah, I’d buy that (but not the book in question).

  9. Everyone strives to be intelligent, covets it, esteems it. It is something we feel we know what is, and we are free to discriminate against those who we feel possess it in lesser quantities. Most people feel that they are smarter than their fellows so it often serves as a basis for the legitimacy of our smugness and arrogance.

    I submit, however, that we only think we know what intelligence is, and as a result have defined most of the people around us as stupid. This is tragic and could be considered to be one of the chief ills of Western Civilization.

    For this reason I do not find the caricature of the angst ridden teenage girl, drawn to be “intelligent” to be particularly compelling.

    It would be better, I think, for people to strive instead for wisdom, kindness, and compassion. In our Spartan, unforgiving, marshall world, this notion, however, is sure to suffer derision. After all, nothing assures wealth, status, and dominance more than “intelligence” in our society.

    As far as I’m concerned, Egg can go to hell.

  10. Yikes, folks.
    It’s YA. It’s designed for young adults. As a teacher, I think it sounds like a lot of my students (the ones I used to teach, at least) would dig a story like that.

    I’m just sayin’.

  11. INBOULDER: This describes alot of people I went to school with, and to an extent even myself… even though I stopped the overachieving about midway through college.

    I don’t understand why the two descriptions are mutually exclusive, at least not in my experience with people and personalities?

  12. Is it just me, or does someone seem a little defensive about the YA genre?

    Huh? Must be just you.

  13. I’ll defend YAs if you want. Where should I start? My fav YA’s helped make me who I am. I can’t imagine growing up without the YA books I read. For one thing, they were some of the only “friends” I had at times.

  14. There is a feature about a young adult novel almost every day. I don’t understand. Is this a teen site now?


  15. Boing X, are you being dense on purpose? No, it’s not a teen site, but many adults, myself included, can enjoy a YA novel from time to time. It’s very nice to feel those young things again, to remember what it’s like going through the agony of teenage identity crisis. The bad ol’days! But fun too. So read Little Brother and love it. Or read Dune, since Paul is a major character and he is a YA.

  16. I read this book shortly after its debut, and it’s truly fantastic…I’m by no means a “teen” but I could relate to Egg’s life, which gives the novel an appealing universality.

  17. In middle school, I took the school bus — got in a minor scuffle with the “kewl boyz” who “owned” the back seat — they asked me, “what are you? some kind of egghead or something?” I said “ya, I am!” From that day forward, I was (chant) Eggy! Probably helped I was a girl, but still, this is my *best* childhood acquaintance situation — at least nobody beat me up!
    Overachievement equates best to academic success — and is often easy and involuntary. It endears one to teachers and completely alienates peers — leading to more beatings — at least that’s my experience

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