So Yesterday
by Scott Westerfeld
Penguin/Razorbill, 2004

So Yesterday is a young adult novel, filled with high technology (for 2004, anyway) and lots of science, but falling just short of being science fiction. It was one of the first books to introduce many young'uns to culture jamming, and still remains a good, interesting, and educational read.

The hero of the story is Hunter, who, coincidentally, happens to be a cool hunter. He 'works' for consumer focus groups and designers who want to find the next cool thing. He's still in high school, so he takes most of his payment in product samples, but it's still serious business to those involved.

One day he comes across an innovator -- one of those people who do cool new things before they are cool -- and cribs some proto-fashion off of her. Jen joins him in a focus group, and impresses the lead consultant so much that she and Hunter are called in on a bigger consultation... one that turns out to be some sort of corporate espionage/kidnapping deal.

The rest of the book deals with Hunter and Jen trying to figure out what is going on, avoid capture, and get their hands on a really cool pair of shoes. The story is interspersed with short essays on the history of cool, fads, mass hysteria, and social innovations. And a number of Very Cool people.

So Yesterday was Scott Westerfeld's third book, and to some extent is the one that made him famous -- although some would argue that he wasn't really famous until the Uglies series. It is well-written and engaging, and it one of his 'information-dump' books, including frequent and interesting explanations of real-world sciency stuff. Unfortunately, it doesn't age very well, as a cutting-edge novel doesn't work so well when all the fancy new technology becomes old technology (for example, the characters think that cell phones with low-quality cameras in them are uber-cool).

This book fits in well with Corey Doctorow's YA novels, in a sub-genre of science fiction(?) that might be termed social fiction -- teenagers trying to change the world through technology, knowledge, and social action. None of these books are likely to age well, but they remain entertaining if you are into that sort of thing -- and many teenagers are. So Yesterday created a lot of buzz early on, winning the Victorian Premier's Award and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults award. Since then it has fallen deep into the shadows of his later works.

ISBN-10: 1595140328
ISBN-13: 978-1595140326

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