Scott Westerfield's Novel "So Yesterday". Literary and Didactic Aspects

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2012

30 Pages, Grade: 1,3




1. Introduction

2. The author
2.1 Historical Background
2.2 Aims

3. Text Analysis
3.1 Plot overview
3.2 Place and setting
3.3 Characters
3.4 Concepts and motifs

4. Didactic analysis – “Teaching project”
4.1 The entry into “So Yesterday”
4.2 Lesson 1 / Advertisements everywhere
4.3 Lesson 2 / How we think others see us
4.4 Lesson 3/ Associative Thinking

5. Conclusion

6. Works cited

1. Introduction

So yesterday

by Scott Westerfeld


So Yesterday is a novel by Scott Westerfeld published in 2004. It has won a Victorian Premier's Award and is also an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. So Yesterday, the author's third publication, is considered his "breakout novel" and has been optioned to be made into a film. The mystery novel with a splash of romance is addressed to young readers and is particularly well suited for the implementation in the English classroom. The novel discusses various themes affecting our everyday life, such as consumerism and marketing, and critically reflects the concept of being “cool”.

This paper intends to analyze the novel by setting out literary and didactic aspects according to the text and to invent a teaching project for the EFL. It is divided into three parts. In part one, the author, his aims and the historical background of the novel are presented. Part two is concerned with the analysis of the text itself, the place and setting, the characters and the themes and concept described in the novel. And part three deals with the construction of the teaching project following the “Rahmenlehrplan”.

2. The author

This chapter intends to introduce the author Scott Westerfeld. After giving a short overview of the biography, his books will be shortly described, as well as his online presence. The second part will deal with the historical backround of Westerfelds novel So Yesterday and part three of the chapter will picture the aim of the novel.

I write novels for money and fame. [1]

Scott Westerfeld is the author of eighteen science fiction novels.[2] Five are for adults, and the other thirteen for young adults. That is why Westerfeld belongs to the genre of young adults. He was born in Dallas, Texas, United States, May 5th 1963. During his childhood Westerfeld moved to California and Connecticut for his father´s job. His father Lloyd Westerfeld used to work as a computer programmer.

Scott Westerfeld received a BA in philosophy from Vassar College in 1985. Vassar College is a private, coeducational liberal arts college in the town of Poughkeepsie, New York.

In the 1980s Westerfeld moved to New York City. In his early career, Westerfeld was a composer. He wrote music for downtown New York dancers. He also worked extensively as ghostwriter, “... which is like driving someone else’s car really, really fast for lots of money.“[3] He produced five Goosebumps books, three Powerpuff Girls tie-ins, and a legal thriller.[4]

Westerfeld married the Australian author Justine Larbalestier in November 2001. She is best known for the Magic or Madness trilogy: Magic or Madness, Magic Lessons and Magic´s Child.[5] They split their time between New York City and Sydney.

I have more frequent flight miles than you do.[6]


Scott Westerfeld is a member of the social networking service Twitter. His Twitter Statistic shows that he has 8.340 Tweets, 542 Following and 24.655 Followers.[7] For comparison J.K. Rowling has 12 Tweets and 1.260.736 Followers.[8]

A book is written and about to be publish. But how does an author create excitement and finally motivate people to take the action of purchasing and reading the book? Twitter is a skillful, real-time megaphone ready to create both ambient awareness and advertorial awareness.[9] Nowadays a multifaceted social media strategy must include Twitter. Twitter shouts the author’s message to millions of people. Twitter is part of a full strategic campaign and invites the users to the author’s website, Facebook page or other venue for a deeper conversation. That is why Scott Westerfeld is also a member of Facebook.

Facebook is the second most popular website in the US (after Google), accounting for about 10 percent of all online usage.[10] Networking on Facebook is a great way to meet and develop relationships with customers as well as other authors, experts, and key influencers in an author’s genre. Westerfeld has 24.450 likes on Facebook.[11] To get an idea what this number stands for a comparison is needed. The coach of the German national football team Joachim Löw has 4.749 likes on Facebook.[12]

Scott Westerfeld‘s books

It was in 1997, that Scott Westerfelds first novel Polymorph was published. The American Library Association Booklist wrote: “With a feel for the genuinely alien, he is a writer to watch.[13]

After publishing his first book Scott Westfeld said:

My first book. Very fond of it, also embarrassed at a few bits. You know, like remembering your very first girlfriend/boyfriend or something. It’s about a shape-shifter hanging out in NYC nightclubs. Living in the city in my twenties, I always thought it would be cool to be able to get into any scene–black, white, gay, straight, whatever–by changing your body like you change your clothes. Hey, what are first novels for if not massive wish fulfillment? (Be warned: a bit graphic in places.)[14]

Scott Westerfeld is most well known for his Uglies series extremely beautiful. It was named as “Best Book for Young Adults“, 2006 by the American Library Association. All four Uglies books have been New York Times bestsellers.

A superb piece of popular art.[15] New York Times

He also wrote The Risen Empire and The Killing of Worlds, parts one and two of the same work, originally titled Succession, published in the UK in 2005 under the title The Risen Empire. It is a literate space opera. The New York Times compared it to the tradition of Issac Asimov´s Foundation series and Frank Herbert´s Dune books.

Furthermore he has written a managa series called Shay's Story and the Leviathan trilogy, consisting of Levianthan, Behemoth, and Goliath. The Sunday Telegraph was impressed by it and wrote: “When a book pursues you into your dreams, you can’t ignore it.“ Leviathan was nominated for an ORCA (Oregon Reader's Choice Award) in the intermediate division.

His novel So Yesterday was published in 2004.

“So Yesterday is contemporary realist,...“ [16]

“I moved all over the country as a kid because my father was a computer programmer when computers were big as a house and came with guys in suits to make them work. Every time we went to a new place, I was reinventing myself. I had two older sisters, and each time we moved our parents promised us it was the last time. (When we found out it wasn't, there were a lot of tears.) Midnighters, Peeps, and So Yesterday all involve characters coming to a new town for the first time, which is of course a classic trope. In half of literature a stranger comes to town. Of course, not all of that is a teenager moving to a new town and getting to reinvent themself.“ [17]

So Yesterday is as well an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults. Westerfeld´s third publication is considered his “breakout novel“. It won the Victorian Premier´s Award. The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards were created by the Victorian Government with the aim of raising the profile of contemporary creative writing and Australia's publishing industry.

So Yesterday has been optioned to be made into a film by one of the producers of Fahrenheit 451 and Bowling for Columbine.

2.1 Historical Background

Set in New York City, So Yesterday is clearly located in the here and now. The novel is very New York. This following chapter will describe what that means by concentrating on the main aspect of being cool.

Dress to impress

New York City is said to be the greatest city in the world. It is the most populous city in the United States of America. As well as a global power city. New York has it all: It has a substantial effect on commerce, media, art, fashion, research, technology, etc.

New York City is at the center of fashion, offering matchless advantages such as a large pool of creative talent, headquarters of fashion designers and fashion retailers than any other city in the US. It is known for setting trends. The thing about trends is that there is no secret meeting of cool people to decide what they are; they just crop up in collections and stores, as well as on the streets.

But cool is changeable and therefore hard to measure. That has not stopped a group of psychologists from conducting a three-part research study investigating the essence of coolness. Research led by a University of Rochester Medical Center psychologist and published by the Journal of Individual Differences has found the characteristics associated with coolness today are markedly different than those that generated the concept of cool. “When I set out to find what people mean by coolness, I wanted to find corroboration of what I thought coolness was...” said Ilan Dar-Nimrod, Ph.D., lead author of “Coolness: An Empirical Investigation.

Cool is the hottest word in branding, and every brand wants a piece of it. The latest example is the Apple / Samsung affair. In the UK’s high court, Judge Colin Birss presided over the Apple case with Samsung, in which Apple arrogated Samsung’s Galaxy tablet was far too alike to the iPad. The judge disagreed.[18] He said that the Samsung’s Galaxy tablet “does not have the same understated and extreme simplicity which is possessed by the Apple design.” Followed by the three words that reflect one of the biggest and most powerful concepts in business. The Judge stated that the Samsung’s Galaxy tablet is “not as cool” as the iPad.[19]

So Yetserday illustrates the concept of being cool. But what is the aim of the novel? The following chapter will concetrate on that question.

2.2 Aims

The aim of the novel So Yesterday is to give the reader an illustration about corporate logos, innovation, and the concept of “cool” which are all aspects of our current reality.

Most interesting about So Yesterday is Westerfeld’s equivocal about the entire mechanism of cool (which will be specified in greater detail in chapter 3.4 Concepts and motifs).

Being cool is the conceive of something creepy, something lost, it promotes temporary fashion that takes over people’s minds so secretly that they do not discern they are being influenced. People spend their money, which directly turns into corporate profits. And in spite of being on the forefront, the main character Hunter stays aware of the social hierarchies of “cool,” between both teenagers and adults. His point of view is that one should never trust the kids who are cool, or the people who are rich and fashionable.

Coolness in our society unavoidably implies hierarchies of both money and taste, structured around the symbolic powers of brand names and logos. Yet the concept of “cool” itself is never questioned by the novel. The self-evident that particular things are cool, and that not everybody can represent such coolness.

In the extremely networked world we now live in, the ultimate value is invariably innovation. But innovation is almost impossible to straighten out from the ways in which the entire society is concentrated by fashion, marketing, and consumption. An innovator is not the same as an entrepreneur; Westerfeld acknowledges this. But different as these roles are fundamentally, it is almost impracticably to remove them in practice. Innovation is inseparable connected with entrepreneurship, marketing, advertising, and branding, since these are the terms of its opportunities: the only ways it can be made present.

So Yesterday makes the reader aware of the above described situation. Logos, brands, etc. are so important a component of the construction of the social reality today. This book makes the reader realize how people are influenced by the marketing and advertising to want certain brands. It tempts people to act a particular way and to think that certain things are cooler than others. The novel does not include derogatory talking down to teenagers or any adult moralistic lessons about being an individual, but recognitions that belonging is important, as well as understanding the created structure of being cool. To be cool or not: the novel asks whether it is a deliberate option, or the result of accepting manipulation.

3. Text Analysis

This chapter intends to discuss the novel by analyzing various aspects relevant to the teaching project. After giving a short overview of the content of the novel, the place and setting will be examined with regard to the cultural diversity of the USA. Part three of the chapter deals with the presentation of the occurring characters. By introducing the parents of the main protagonist of the novel, the issue of generational difference will be discussed. The chapter concludes by analyzing diverse concepts and motifs discussed in the novel.

3.1 Plot overview

So Yesterday is set in New York and thus located in the city of advertising, fashion and style. It gives insights into the issues of generational differences, marketing and consumerism. The narrator of the novel, seventeen-year-old Hunter Braque, is a cool hunter who works for a multinational sports clothing firm, an “athletic shoe company named after a certain Greek god” (p.7), advising them on what is cool and what is not and spreading the latest trend to the masses. In search of the newest development, Hunter meets Jen (also a seventeen-year-old teenager) at the East River Park. She wears outstanding shoelaces that immediately make the impression of being the next big thing. Consequently, Jen is an Innovator: one of the people who invent the trends. Impressed by Jens’ creativity, Hunter takes her to a cool tasting. This, however, turns out to be a mistake because Jen brings up an idea that instantly makes a two-million-dollar ad uncool before its product even hits the mall. Subsequent to the meeting with the focus group weird things begin to happen. Hunter’s boss Mandy was supposed to meet the two teenagers “at eleven-thirty in Chinatown” (p.22). Mandy, however, does not show up. Instead, Jen and Hunter find her cell phone in an abandoned building. It seems like she has disappeared in bizarre circumstances. When the two teenagers are searching for Hunter’s missing boss, they suddenly come into contact with the Jammers, “a shadowy group dedicated to the downfall of consumerism” which ends up in a pursuit chase. Through the pursuance of the anti-client Jen and Hunter are involved in a mystery story. They fall for a brand-name intrigue – a missing cargo of the coolest shoes they have ever seen. The logo of the shoe “had been cut through with a diagonal line in bright red” (p.39). What does this stand for? It is part of the Jammers’ tactic of challenging consumerism and trying to reconstruct the cool hierarchy.


[1]!/ScottWesterfeld, 14.06.2012.

[2] Vgl., 14.06.2012.

[3], 14.06.2012.

[4] Vgl., 14.06.2012.

[5] Vgl., 14.06.2012.

[6], 14.06.2012.

[7]!/ScottWesterfeld, 14.06.2012.

[8]!/jk_rowling/, 27.06.2012.

[9] Vgl., 17.07.2012.

[10], 17.08.2012.

[11], 14.06.2012.

[12], 27.06.2012.

[13], 14.06.2012.

[14] Ebd.

[15], 27.06.2012.

[16], 27.06.2012.

[17] Ebd.

[18] Vgl., 27.06.2012.

[19] Vgl. Ebd.

Excerpt out of 30 pages


Scott Westerfield's Novel "So Yesterday". Literary and Didactic Aspects
Humboldt-University of Berlin  (Seminar für Anglistik/ Amerikanistik)
Hauptseminar: Amerikanische Jugendromane
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scott, westerfield, novel, yesterday, literary, didactic, aspects
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Anonymous, 2012, Scott Westerfield's Novel "So Yesterday". Literary and Didactic Aspects, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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