Note: I received a free Advanced Reader's e-galley from the publisher for review.
Have you ever been a fangirl? A loyal member of a fandom? Denounced a movie because of the way it misrepresented your childhood obsession and royally screwed up your favorite characters (*ahem Avatar: The Last Airbender ahem*)? Felt like you belonged in your favorite book, show, or video game more than the "real world?" Then Geekerella, by Ashley Poston is for you. It's a tribute to anyone who's felt lonely or misunderstood. It's a lovely contemporary story of friendship and belonging, inspired by Cinderella, and it reminded me of the best parts of my childhood.
Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.
Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again?
Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.
First of all, I have to confess that I don't often read contemporary young adult fiction. Being almost 25 years old, it's difficult for me to relate to the high school drama they're often based around. I wasn't boy obsessed and heartbroken all the time- I was quietly obsessing over video games, Korean dramas, fictional guys.
It took me a a little while to get into Geekerella because the way the book opened up was so typical of a contemporary young adult novel. In the first-person narration of one of our protagonists, Elle, we learn about how unfairly she's treated by her stepmother and stepsisters (sound familiar?). I mentally shrugged at her circumstances. Meh. Maybe she's just being a drama queen.
As I kept reading, I had to take a step back. Elle wasn't being a drama queen. She was being a normal high school kid, working a part-time job, blogging about her favorite thing in the world, and dealing with family problems. The way she loses herself in Starfield reminded me of when I would prefer to watch Korean dramas instead of finishing my homework, or secretly duel my friends in Yu-gi-oh on bus rides home from school.
What quickly captured my attention was how huge role a single sci-fi television show had on Elle's upbringing. The fictional show, Starfield, is her last thread to her deceased parents. It's what her blog, her source of expression, is based on. It's what starts a friendly and somewhat flirtatious conversation between Elle and an anonymous person who texts her phone by accident. It's like the cultural phenomenon that was the Harry Potter franchise, or the start of the Avengers films. That just really spoke to me. In middle school and high school, most of my close friends shared similar interests with me, and that's what occupied our free time and fun conversations, whether it was Pokemon, K-pop, or Yu-Gi-Oh. What a time it was to be so wholly immersed in something, to be considered an expert in Pokemon, and have it matter more to me than my chemistry grades.
There's a sweetness in this novel. It's not cloying, it's not forced, it's not fake. It may be fiction, but it's not fake. There's an authenticity to the way the relationships play out and the way Starfield affects our main characters. And yes, you still get the small nods to the Cinderella fairy tale, but the story definitely doesn't rely on those elements.
One of my favorite things was the text messages between Elle and her mystery Carmindor. There's a hesitance and innocence to their conversations. Texts can't be erased, and there's actually a bit of thought that has to go into conveying the right emotion using words alone. These moments in the book are fun and open up a vulnerable side to Elle that she doesn't show to anyone.
I can't stress how much I enjoyed this read. It was light and fun, and definitely what I needed during this long week.
Many thanks to Quirk Books for the digital ARC, Netgalley for their amazing platform for literary discovery, and Ashley Poston for crafting this delightful novel! You can find this book on shelves now- check it out!
I rate Geekerella 5/5 stars!