Monday, January 30, 2017

Geekerella - Ashley Poston

Summary: 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. (Summary and image from  I was provided a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.) 

Review: I know, I know.  Another Cinderella retelling? Seriously?! There are so, so many out there, how can this one be any different? In the most generalized sense, it’s not.  There’s a ball, a downtrodden girl ready to get out of her stepmother’s nasty thumb, a really cute prince who wants to be seen as a real person, and shoes. Oh, the shoes!

But, that’s just the underlying theme. This book isn’t just about Cinderella’s finding her perfect prince, it’s about our heroine becoming who she should be—learning to be without the pressure or the oppressing presence of anyone else. Poston has taken the Cinderella skeleton and fleshed it out using this still-burgeoning culture of fandoms. Elle’s father, who although dead is one of the best-written Cinderella dads I’ve read, prepared his daughter for fandom life from the very beginning. He taught her how to use her voice, gave her the medium to do so, and then exited tragically. It introduced an interesting dynamic into the story, showing readers the allure of a solid fandom.

Fandoms aren’t new per se — remember the black bands readers of Sherlock Holmes wore when Sir Doyle had the audacity to try to kill him off?  But the ability for a fandom to become such a part of pop culture and the desire of people to belong to this group—to find a place, whether online or in a Con—where they aren’t the weird ones, where their theories, imaginations, and craftiness are allowed to shine has certainly reached fever pitch. This is part of life, now.  And even days after finishing the novel, I’m stymied why no one hasn’t tried to put the Cinderella story into a fandom setting before.  It was a perfect fit.

Now, let’s talk about the writing. There were a few scenes where the emotional abuse and cyber bullying of Elle by her stepfamily, and of Darian by his father, were alluded to, but never fleshed out. In a way, I’m grateful for that, but it was disquieting, especially since Poston’s Elle has some pretty serious withdrawal tendencies. It made my mom-senses tingle, and not in a good way. It’s just never okay to isolate yourself because of an incident. (Do you hear that, teens?! TELL. SOMEONE. ALWAYS.) Second, while it felt honest having a teen who wasn’t the typical Cinderella-trope, I wouldn’t have complained if the rest of our characters had been a little more fleshed out.  Don’t get me wrong, for the main cast, the characters were multifaceted, realistic characters.  But our side characters? It was easy to write them off as beings I should care about based on how true-to-form they were written. I’d have liked to see a little more depth. It would have taken this novel over the top.

All in all, I walked away from this novel pleasantly surprised. I loved seeing Cinderella as a cosplaying, sassy, blog-owning teen who just needs to find her voice outside of the internet. I loved that we actually have a prince in this book worthy of a lost shoe. While there are a few things I would have tweaked, this is still a fun read.

Rating: Three and a half stars

For the Sensitive Reader: There are a few instances of explicit language, and some homophobic bullying. 

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