Meg Cabot's Airhead is the first book of a YA trilogy (the final volume is due out next month). Airhead is an unusual mix of near-future speculative science fiction and beautiful people/fashion model story. Leave it to Meg Cabot to put those two things together and completely have it work.
Emerson Watts is a video game-loving, sneaker-wearing social outcast at her exclusive New York school, Tribeca Alternative (TAHS). She spends most of her time with her best friend, and unrequited love, Christopher. She worries about her younger sister, Frida, who has become a "Walking Dead wannabe" (people who have no interests of their own, or squelch the ones that they do have, and merely pursue what's going to help them get into college and/or be popular).
Because she's a good older sister, Em accompanies Frida to a chain music store opening (although chain stores go against her own beliefs). There, Em first encounters Nikki Howard, a gorgeous 17-year-old model who is everything that Em isn't (and vice versa). Em is largely disinterested in Nikki. Until, that is, an unexpected catastrophe brings the two girls' lives together, and changes Em forever.
It's difficult to say more without spoiling the first part of the book. So I'll just say that I enjoyed Airhead. It's a quick read that kept me turning the pages. It has a similar feel to Cabot's Mediator series, which I loved, but with a somewhat lighter tone. I found Em easy to relate to. She's quietly sarcastic and decidedly introverted (she'd rather stay home and read than go out), and acknowledges her own inconsistencies ("Christopher and I are ethically opposed to Stark Megastores ... but we're not above taking advantage of their heavily slashed prices.").
Em's conflicted feelings about her younger sister feel real. Her love for Christopher is, perhaps, a tad less convincing (or perhaps I've just read all of the stories I can handle about the secret love for the opposite sex best friend). But there's plenty else going on to distract from that.
Here are a couple of quotes to give you a feel for Em's voice:
"How do couples not just go around kissing all the time? Kissing is fantastic." (Page 97)
"I could see that the walking dead were in fine form when the cab I'd been lucky to snag let me off in front of TAHS the next morning. They were all leaning up against the chain-link fence around the construction site across the street (because why have a high school if it isn't across the street from a former thread factory they've imploded to make room for more condos, so you can listen to the beep, beep, beep of trucks backing up all day?), text messaging one another.
All but Whitney Robertson and Jason Klein. They were making out.
I felt some throw up come into my mouth, just looking at them." (Page 256)
Airhead has some of the "quest for identity" themes that I enjoyed in The Adoration of Jenna Fox, crossed with the fashion model insider world of Violet on the Runway, and sprinkled with the school dynamics of the first Princess Diaries book. Fans of the Gossip Girl TV show will probably like it, too. Recommended for teen girls, and for adults looking for escapist fare. As for me, I've requested the next book, Being Nikki, from the library.
Publication Date: May 13, 2008
Source of Book: Library copy
Other Blog Reviews: The Compulsive Reader, Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf, Reading the Best of the Best, Teenage Fiction for All Ages
© 2010 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).