Nelson, Blake 1960-
Nelson, Blake 1960-
Born 1960, in Portland, OR; married. Education: Earned bachelor's degree.
Novelist. Also served as humor columnist for Details magazine.
NOVELS FOR ADULTS
Girl, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1994.
Exile, Scribner (New York, NY), 1997.
User, Versus Press (San Francisco, CA), 2001.
NOVELS FOR YOUNG ADULTS
The New Rules of High School, Viking (New York, NY), 2003.
Rock Star, Superstar, Viking (New York, NY), 2004.
Gender Blender, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2006.
Paranoid Park, Viking (New York, NY), 2006.
Prom Anonymous, Viking (New York, NY), 2006.
They Came from Below, Tor (New York, NY), 2007.
Girl was adapted as a motion picture, 1998; Paranoid Park was adapted as a motion picture, directed by Gus Van Sant; Gender Blender has been optioned for film by Nickelodeon.
Blake Nelson is the author of a number of critically acclaimed novels for young adults, including The New Rules of High School and Paranoid Park. Born in Portland, Oregon, Nelson developed an early interest in literature and music. After graduating from college, Nelson played in a series of alternative bands before landing a job writing humor pieces for Details magazine. Nelson's fiction began generating interest from publishers after excerpts from his first novel appeared in the popular teen magazine Sassy.
Nelson's well-regarded debut work, Girl, appeared in 1994. Written for adults, Girl focuses on Andrea Marr, a high school student in Portland struggling to find her identity. "I am the Andrea type," Nelson commented to an interviewer on Teenreads.com. "I didn't realize it at first. I tried at the beginning to make Andrea a clueless mall chick, but she quickly became more of an observer (like me!) and she did what I did in high school, which is become friends with a lot of different people from different cliques and especially befriend the weirdest, most creative people." "While making Andrea neither victim nor victimizer, Nelson captures this young woman's fears and joys in subtle and often uncannily accurate ways," noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
After publishing two more works for adults, Exile and User, Nelson turned his attention to young adult literature. The New Rules of High School, Blake's first work for teen readers, follows Max Caldwell, an overachieving high school senior. Max appears to have it all: he serves as the editor-in-chief of the school newspaper and captain of the debate team, earns straight As in the classroom, and dates a beautiful girl. When the pressure to live up to such high standards becomes too much for him, however, Max begins to self-destruct, first dumping his girlfriend and then jeopardizing his other close relationships. "Thus begins an intense journey of self-discovery, told in an achingly honest narrative," observed a critic in Publishers Weekly. "Nelson skillfully reveals Max's character and problems in ‘show-don't-tell’ style," noted a Kirkus Reviews contributor, and Gillian Engberg, writing in Booklist, stated that "there's a refreshing honesty in his ‘averageness’ and in his bewildered disconnection." "Whether Max is grieving over his breakup or testing the waters of singledom," wrote School Library Journal critic Vicki Reutter, "readers are empathetic to his emotional vulnerability."
A teenager takes his shot at fame and fortune in Rock Star, Superstar, "a brilliant, tender, funny, and utterly believable novel about music and relationships," noted School Library Journal contributor Miranda Doyle. Pete, a talented bass player whose parents were also musicians, is asked to join the Tiny Masters of Today, a rock band on the verge of hitting it big. Despite reservations about his bandmates' devotion to their craft, Pete agrees to tour with his new group, learning some hard lessons about the music industry along the way. He also enters an intense, complicated relationship with Margaret, his first true love. "Nelson paints Pete as endearingly clueless," remarked a critic in Publishers Weekly, "yet the teen proves his loyalty throughout the book—to his girlfriend, to his dad and ultimately to his music."
A pair of sixth-graders learns firsthand what its like to be a member of the opposite sex in Nelson's humorous work Gender Blender. After colliding on a trampoline, Tom Witherspoon and Emma Baker discover that they have magically swapped bodies. Forced to impersonate each other, Tom must learn the intricacies of wearing a bra while Emma copes with her counterpart's goofy friends and their childish pranks. According to a Kirkus Reviews contributor, the teens "find that others' expectations and their own physical and emotional makeup shape their experiences." "Throughout the novel," remarked a Publishers Weekly critic, "Nelson demonstrates his keen understanding of peer pressure and gender stereotyping."
A skateboarder's journey to a rough-and-tumble neighborhood goes terribly wrong in Paranoid Park, a "deeply disturbing cautionary tale," in the words of a Kirkus Reviews critic. When the unnamed sixteen-year-old narrator decides one night to visit Paranoid Park, which has a reputation as a sketchy, dangerous place, he meets Scratch, a street kid who convinces him to hop a train. Confronted by a vicious security guard, the narrator lashes out with his skateboard and watches in horror as the guard falls beneath the train. "Written in the form of a confessional letter," a Publishers Weekly contributor noted, "the book details the narrator's moral dilemma after the incident." "Gritty and aching, the narrative will have readers pondering what they might do under the circumstances," according to Kliatt reviewer Paula Rohrlick.
In Prom Anonymous, a high school junior hopes to reunite with two old friends on the night of the big dance. Though Laura has drifted apart from Chloe and Jace, she is determined to play matchmaker for them; unfortunately, she begins to ignore her own boyfriend in the process. "Yes, it's a who-will-date-whom story," noted a Kirkus Reviews contributor, "but with laughter and surprising depth." "As might be expected, prom night is filled with crises, but creative resolutions make for a gratifying all's-well-that-ends-well conclusion," noted a critic in Publishers Weekly.
Asked if he had any advice for young writers, Nelson remarked on his Web site, "You have one life. What are you gonna do with it? If you go into the arts, that's a big risk. There's no certain reward. You are really sort of throwing yourself at the mercy of the fates. But if that's really what you feel called to do, then you do it."
Nelson told CA: "I enjoy the intimacy of writing. Of all the art forms, it feels the most immediate to me, the most direct in its communication. Reading a good book is like having a good talk with an interesting person. It is about the most rewarding way to spend time I can think of.
"I have been surprised by how independent my characters are. How they seem to do what they want, and respond to things almost as if they actually existed independent of me, their creator.
"I hope my books provide good, thoughtful company to people. I like to imagine a person on a bus curling up against the window and not minding the trip, since he has a good book to read."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August, 2003, Gillian Engberg, review of The New Rules of High School, p. 1972; November 1, 2004, Todd Morning, review of Rock Star, Superstar, p. 476; March 1, 2006, Jennifer Mattson, review of Gender Blender, p. 88; April 1, 2006, Anne O'Malley, review of Prom Anonymous, p. 37; September 1, 2006, Ilene Cooper, review of Paranoid Park, p. 115.
Girls' Life, February-March, 2006, review of Gender Blender, p. 38.
Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2003, review of The New Rules of High School, p. 809; August 1, 2004, review of Rock Star, Superstar, p. 746; February 15, 2006, review of Gender Blender, p. 188, and review of Prom Anonymous, p. 189; August 1, 2006, review of Paranoid Park, p. 793.
Kliatt, September, 2006, Paula Rohrlick, review of Paranoid Park, p. 16.
Publishers Weekly, August 1, 1994, review of Girl, p. 74; May 12, 1997, review of Exile, p. 58; June 23, 2003, review of The New Rules of High School, p. 68; September 20, 2004, review of Rock Star, Superstar, p. 63; February 6, 2006, review of Gender Blender and Prom Anonymous, p. 70; August 21, 2006, review of Paranoid Park, p. 69.
School Library Journal, June, 2003, Vicki Reutter, review of The New Rules of High School, p. 148; October, 2004, Miranda Doyle, review of Rock Star, Superstar, p. 173; March, 2006, Morgan Johnson-Doyle, review of Prom Anonymous, p. 228; April, 2006, Laurie Slagenwhite, review of Gender Blender, p. 145.
Voice of Youth Advocates, October, 2004, Patrick Jones, review of Rock Star, Superstar, p. 306.
Blake Nelson Home Page,http://www.blakenelsonbooks.com (March 20, 2007).
Teenreads.com,http://www.teenreads.com/ (February 26, 2002), interview with Blake Nelson.