Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book Review: Geek Girl by Holly Smale

Geek Girl by Holly Smale

Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
Pages: 378 (Paperback)
Published: February 28, 2013
Source: ARC from Publisher (spiral bound paperback)
ISBN-13: 0007489447
Genre: YA
Author: Twitter | Blog

First Sentence: My name is Harriet Manners, and I am a geek.

Harriet Manners knows a lot of things. 

She knows that a cat has 32 muscles in each ear, a "jiffy" lasts 1/100th of a second, and the average person laughs 15 times per day. What she isn't quite so sure about is why nobody at school seems to like her very much. So when she's spotted by a top model agent, Harriet grabs the chance to reinvent herself. Even if it means stealing her Best Friend's dream, incurring the wrath of her arch enemy Alexa, and repeatedly humiliating herself in front of the impossibly handsome supermodel Nick. Even if it means lying to the people she loves. 

As Harriet veers from one couture disaster to the next with the help of her overly enthusiastic father and her uber-geeky stalker, Toby, she begins to realise that the world of fashion doesn't seem to like her any more than the real world did. 

And as her old life starts to fall apart, the question is: will Harriet be able to transform herself before she ruins everything?

Goodreads Overview
Geek Girl was an endearing story of Harriet Manners who is a proud geek. When she's spotted by a modeling agency, her life turns upside down and she tries to remain true to her geek roots while being glammed up. I thought this was a great debut from Holly Smale and really did like the character of Harriet, who was kind of a cross between Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory and Mia Thermopolis from The Princess Diaries.

In Geek Girl, Holly Smale developed a character that probably represents a lot of us: misunderstood, a bit of an outcast, yet fairly confident in her identity. Harriet Manners knows that she is completely and utterly a geek. The book opens with Harriet explaining her geekhood. It's the day of a big field trip and Harriet's best friend Nat (short for Natalie) wants her to share in the experience.  However, Harriet attempts to fake being sick so she can get out of it (something that she's not at all good at, by the way). Harriet does go and what follows is a comedy of errors from having to deal with an obsessive teenage boy named Toby to being "spotted" by a high-profile modeling agency. If Harriet takes the job as a model, she could risk losing her best friend, alienating her step-mother, and generally making herself a laughing stock.

There are some popular culture references within the book, but Harriet's geekhood isn't just from watching Star Wars or reading comic books. She's incredibly intelligent and knows a lot of useless facts. Her identity as a geek also doesn't hinge on a geek community. She's pretty solitary and Smale uses the metaphor of a polar bear in the rainforest to make the point. While Harriet knows who she is and is comfortable with herself, she's not necessarily as comfortable with how people perceive her. Though this is normal for most teenagers, and really adults too, Harriet too much emphasis on what people think of her and derives too much of her self-worth from other people.

The book has a very fast pace and was a quick, but enjoyable read. It seems to be split into three acts and while all three have a lot of action, it really picks up after act two through the conclusion. We do not see a lot of Harriet at school, but we see a bit of her at home and interacting with Nat. The story really takes off after the Birmingham Clothes Show and it's there that we meet many of the principle characters.

Speaking of characters, besides Harriet and Nat, Toby and Alexa are the two characters that are classmates of the girls. Toby is described as a stalker in the book, which seems to be a complete understatement. He has her complete routine down to a science and has even carved himself a place within a shrubbery. He's pretty annoying which means he is well-written, but his affection isn't misplaced and he does seem to truly care about Harriet and her well-being, as creepy as it is. Alexa, however, is part of the A Crowd and is resident mean girl. She has no problem letting her hatred for Harriet, and by extension Nat, show and leads the charge of making "geek" a four letter word.

In addition, we meet Wilbur (Bur not Iam) who acts as Harriet's modeling agent and liaison between the "ugly ducking" and the world of swans. He's flamboyant, over-the-top, and has way too many affectionate adjectives for Harriet. My favorite being, "Baby-baby panda." A young model named Nick captures Harriet's attention, and though he's not in the book a great deal, he still plays a very important part. It's not hard for her to completely embarrass herself in front of him.

One of the big themes in the book is staying true to yourself. While you may change on the outside, it's important to remain true to who you are. Harriet is the type of person that has everything all planned out and so she thinks she knows exactly how her metamorphosis is supposed to go once she gets into the modeling world. Of course, everything doesn't always go according to plan. I think that Smale really drove home the point about not letting others color your perception of yourself quite well. Geek Girl really did deliver a powerful message in that regard.

I've tried to be as spoiler-free within the review as possible, so for more, you're really going to have to read it yourself. It's a quick read and I loved the way Smale used so many British-isms. It was delightful!

I gave Geek Girl 5 stars on Goodreads for a story with a great message and a relatable protagonist. Geek Girl is now available from HarperCollins Children's Books. It is only available in the UK, so if you're the United States, you'll have to buy the paperback from Amazon.Co.UK.

I received an ARC of Geek Girl from HarperCollins Children's Books in exchange for a review. I did not receive any monetary compensation other than the value of the book.

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