by Scott Westerfeld
Publishing Information: Razorbill: New York, 2004
Pages: 225 p.
Ages: 12 & Up
Ever wonder who was the first kid to keep a wallet on a big chunky chain, or wear way-too-big pants on purpose? What about the mythical first guy who wore his baseball cap backwards? These are the Innovators, the people on the very cusp of cool. Seventeen-year-old Hunter Braque's job is finding them for the retail market.
But when a big-money client disappears, Hunter must use all his cool-hunting talents to find her. Along the way he's drawn into a web of brand-name intrigue - a missing cargo of the coolest shoes he's ever seen, ads for products that don't exist, and a shadowy group dedicated to the downfall of consumerism as we know it.
We're all around you. We're the people who get paid to figure out which products are Cool -- the trendsetters. We go to focus groups and tell clients which of their products and commercials are Cool and which are not.
My name is Hunter Braque. I'm seventeen-years-old and I'm a trendsetter. In the Cool business there is a pyramid of those who determine what you buy. Trendsetters are number two on that pyramid; at the top are the innovators. Everybody follows the trendsetters and every trendsetter looks for an innovator with the next big idea.
From the minute I met her on East River Park carrying a basketball, I knew Jen was an innovator. But I didn't know then how much I would need her until the mystery began.
Everything has a beginning and an innovator. And for Jen and me the beginning -- the real beginning -- was when Mandy, the person who organized the focus groups, didn't show up for a meeting with Jen and me in Chinatown. She turned up missing as did a shipment of the coolest shoes I'd ever seen. Now we are chasing Mandy and the shoes, and are being chased by a mysterious group of anti-corporate radicals.
Before I met Jen and became a detective my life revolved around the Cool. I believed in it and I knew how to spot it. Cool was a real thing, something that mattered. But that was yesterday -- so yesterday.
BookTalk submitted by NoveList YA Editor, Tom Reynolds, Sno-Isle Regional Library, Marysville, WA. 2005
|Subject Headings & Major Themes:
Coolness (Personal Quality)
Teenagers -- Employment
Awards & Reviews:
Book Sense Book of the Year Nominee, 2005
YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 2005
BookList, September 15, 2004, p. 235
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (Starred)
Kirkus Reviews, September 2004, (Starred)
Publishers Weekly, October 2004 (Starred)
School Library Journal, October, 2004, p. 182
Discussion Questions and Ideas:
- Hunter is a bit conflicted about his profession as a "cool-hunter," so why does he stay with it?
- The Jammers are a secret organization of renegade cool-types, sort of a cross between Ad-Busters and Dr. No. How do they plan to wrest control of consumer tastes from the giant corporations?
- What do the Jammers mean when they announce their goal to "End consumerism as we know it"? What will consumerism be if (or when) the Jammers prevail? What is "consumerism," for that matter?
- Define and explain the cool pyramid as Hunter envisions it. Do you agree with his analysis of the market?
- Hunter has been described as "cynical." Would you agree and why or why not?
- Hunter claims to take you on a behind-the-scenes tour of how corporations and their ad agencies create "coolness." Discuss the truth of his claim.
- Watch the PBS video Merchants of Cool and compare Hunter to the typical cool-hunter from the video.
- Collect examples of fashion trends that are "so yesterday" and research how they came into and out of fashion.
- How many areas of popular culture offer examples of planned obsolescence?
- Some people involved in human rights and social justice issues insist that our preoccupation with "coolness" contributes to the growing disparity between rich and poor nations, developed and developing nations. What do you think?
- Read the lyrics to Hilary Duff's song "So Yesterday" (http://www.geocities.com/hilaryduffslyrics/soyesterday.html). What are the similarities between her message and Westerfeld's? Are there any?
Author's Website (www.scottwesterfeld.com) - Scott Westerfeld's own website includes all sorts of intriguing tidbits about his life, philosophy, and world travels (Find out where you can meet him in person!).
Coolhunt (www.gladwell.com/1997/1997_03_17_a_cool.htm) - Who decides what's cool? Certain kids in certain places - and only the coolhunters know who they are.
Coolhunters (www.coolhunters.net/www.coolhunters.net/index.html) - A German site, but even if you don't understand the language, you can still get the idea of what cool is all about.
(http://www.wordspy.com/words/coolhunter.asp) - The origins of the term
Trend Scouts Unite! (http://www.trendguide.com/)
Be More Chill by Ned Vizzini, 2004
Feed by M.T. Anderson, 2002
Scooter Girl by Chynna Clugston-Major, 2003-2004
Freaks, Geeks, and the Culture of Consumption by Murray Milner, 2004
Made You Look: How Advertising Works and Why You Should Know by Shari Graydon, 2003
Swoosh: The Unauthorized Story of Nike and the Men Who Played There by J.B. Strasser & Laurie Beckland, 1991
Other Books by the Author:
Fine Prey, 1998
Evolution's Darling, 1999
The Killing of Worlds, 2003
The Risen Empire, 2003
The Secret Hour, 2004
Touching Darkness, 2005
The Midnighters, 2005
About the Author:
Scott Westerfeld was born in Texas but currently splits his time between Australia and New York City with his wife, Justine Larbalester, who is also a writer of science fiction. His other books for young adults include Midnighters (2004) and Uglies (2005). Westerfeld has written science fiction books for adult including The Risen Empire (2003), The Killing of Worlds (2003), Fine Prey (1998), Polymorph (1997), and Evolution's Darling (1999). The latter novel was selected as a New York Times Notable Book of 2000 and short-listed for the Philip K. Dick Award. He has also contributed essays to Book Forum, Nerve, and the scientific journal Nature. In addition to being a software designer and author, Westerfeld is a composer. His musical compositions for dance have been performed at New York's Dance Theater Workshop, Joyce Theater, P.S. 122, and Jacob's Pillow, and in London, Chicago, Berkeley, Philadelphia, and Sweden. As if that weren't enough, he also has created educational software for Scholastic, McGraw-Hill, Encyclopaedia Britannica, and with a number of small start-ups.