Highly Recommended / Nonfiction: Memoir

Review: Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton

I bought this book for my husband, a big Star Trek fan.  But I’ll admit to buying it for myself too.  I’m not a Trekkie, but I loved Next Generation, and lately we’ve been watching Wheaton on The Guild, which is hilarious.  But Wheaton is also a blogger, and this book describes how he created his blog, how his blog developed and how it ultimately affected him.  Recently I read Wheaton’s introduction to another book about blogging, Jon Scalzi’s Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded.  Wheaton’s intro definitely sucked me in to reading more about him, and more about blogging.  As a new blogger I feel like this is a world I have to learn to navigate.

Wheaton was the star of Stand By Me as a child – the role of a lifetime for an unknown kid actor.  Then he turned that fame into a role on The Next Generation, which was the much anticipated spinoff to the Star Trek series.  He may have been initially the most famous actor on that show next to LaVar Burton.  The problem?  One, he was awful on TNG (or his character was written very badly, take your pick).  Two, like many a TV actor, he didn’t want to be pigeonholed to Star Trek, he wanted to get back to movies.  Three, he was a teenager on TNG and was suffering through the angst nearly all of us go through at that age.

He loved Star Trek, but grew to hate the show.  He did TNG gigs like conventions but hated them because he wanted to be something more.  He auditioned for other roles but didn’t get them.  Over a ten year period he gets more and more bitter towards the show, the industry, and himself.  Oh, and he also has a family to support, a wife and stepsons and no income.

The book begins when he starts a blog in 2000 so he can stay in the public eye.  He has enough of a fan base to immediately have a few hundred dedicated readers (which doesn’t happen for us non-famous bloggers).  He writes mostly about his frustration about being a “former child star” and “that awful Wesley Crusher”.

At times Wheaton can be arrogant, self-centered, immature (as a writer and actor, that’s hardly shocking).  But I felt like I got to know him by reading this book.

What I loved about this book: He describes battling between different “personalities” as a writer, and really struggles to find his own voice.  At first, as a blogger he is all bravado – he calls this voice “Prove to Everyone That Quitting TNG was not a Mistake.”  This voice doesn’t resonate with readers because it covers up his insecurities.  Another voice he calls “The Voice of Self Doubt.”  Wheaton has to learn, as a writer, to share who he is on his blog.  And that progression, revealed bit by bit with each blog post, was fascinating to read.  As a new blogger I have no idea yet how personal to be, how much to reveal.  Why am I writing?  Why do books matter?  Am I writing reviews or am I writing about how the book affected me?  Since my family is reading, do I watch what I say?  How much do you as a reader really want to hear?  And ultimately, if I put myself out there, will people care what I have to say?

In August 2002 Wheaton writes, “I’ve realized recently that I’ve changed dramatically since I started this website.  When it began just over a year ago, I was adrift, terrified that the Internet would tear me apart.  Well, it did and it turns out that was a great thing… it forced me to find strength within myself and not to derive my sense of self-worth from the opinions of others.”

I don’t have such a high expectation of blogging, but I do believe that writing has the power to affect how you think and feel.  It’s also scary as hell.

The other thing I loved about this book: Wheaton gradually discovers how much he loved Star Trek, and how lucky he was to be part of TNG.  He talks about how in the end he is “just a geek”, and by remembering how much he loves the show, he sort of recovers his childhood and comes to terms with his career.  Reading this book reminded me that I loved TNG, which in turn reminded me how much this blog, for me, is about coming to terms with my own geekiness.

When I was a kid I read.  A LOT.   I don’t regret reading a lot as a kid, even if it was to some extent a way of escaping the real world and avoiding real people.  But I struggle today to feel good about being that kid, the kid who hid in her closet so she could read, who used strange vocabulary, who jumped from sci fi to horror to romance to literature and back again.  That kid who felt that book characters were better friends than the kids at school.

Dr. Catherine Snow, an expert on reading, says you know when a kid is a reader, because they use big words and pronounce them wrong (having never heard them spoken).  That was me.  And I wish I didn’t care about being laughed at when that happened, but I did.

So for me, some part of this blog is about not hiding what I read or what I think.  I’m not the weird kid any more, I’m just an average every-day grownup.  But here on this blog, this is who I am.  Just a geek.

9 thoughts on “Review: Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton

  1. I’ve been kicking around the idea of reading Just a Geek for a while now. I’m an occasional reader of Wheaton’s blog, follow him on Twitter, and, you know, had crush on him when he was on TNG–I’m nearish his age.

    So thank you for the thoughtful review! It gives me more information to work with as I put it on my “to read” list.

  2. Hi. I’m returning your visit. I love the look of your blog. Clean and neat. Looks great.
    I read “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand” not long ago and I loved it too. I so want to go to the village he lived in and drop in for tea but then I remember it’s fiction. The copy I read belonged to the library but I have to buy one so I can read it again when that feeling hits. I don’t use the word “lovely” often, but that was truly a lovely book.

    • Thanks! I played with the header so I’d love to know what you think. Glad you enjoyed Major Pettigrew; I’ve been recommending this book to everyone. It was so not what I expected.

  3. Hello,

    Great post! I am a big fan of Wil Wheaton – since his role on “Stand By Me,” through STNG and now especially with his guest appearances on the amazingly hilarious t.v. show, The Big Bang Theory. I love his writing style, his blog is great and I always enjoy his Twitter posts. You’re only the second blogger I’ve stumbled across to like/mention Wheaton, so I’m pretty excited. 🙂

  4. I’m a big fan of Wil Wheaton, but Wesley Crusher has got to be the most annoying star trek character EVER. and since it sounds like he kinda feels that way too, I might pick up his book.

    • It sounds like the fans gave him a really hard time about it, which is a little sad since he was just a teenager at the time. But he was really annoying! I love him on the Guild so I guess he’s redeemed himself.

  5. Pingback: Review of Sunken Treasures: Wil Wheaton’s Hot Cocoa Box Sampler « The Book Stop

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