Paperback, 378 pages
Published February 28th 2013 by HarperCollins Children’s Books
Challenge: Debut Author 2013
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?
This is a review. Just in case you were wondering.
Not snark I try to pass off as a review but a review. A Review. Review. Review.
Okay, now that the veracity of the first sentence has been established by the author, admittedly without any outside input but still, we will move on to the purpose for which we have gathered here.
I really really really liked Geek Girl. It came to me during a time when I needed something funny. Something uplifting. Something that didn’t take itself seriously and didn’t expect me to do so. It was what I had expected Going Vintage to be and hey, I’m not complaining.
The premise isn’t new. This story has been written countless times before and will continue to be written countless time in the future. The fact is, people are suckers for the Cinderella tale. It makes us believe (wrongly perhaps) that there is a chance for all of us to move forward and away from our sad and poor (I want money, damnit!) lives. But as this is a modern book with modern sensibilities, this novel is also about finding yourself. Not like you have lost yourself on the way to school but like accepting your lot in life after you have become Cinderella and realized that the clock will always chime midnight once a day and you have to accept the pumpkin as well as the prince.
This novel has kind of a fail romance but we’ll get to that later. First, let’s talk about the awesomesauce that is Harriet Manners. She has a father who acts more like an adolescent than her and a stepmother who is not evil and actually kind of a saint for putting up with her father and a best friend who has her issues but is pretty darned awesome. Oh, she also has a stalker which is a tad bit problematic but for the most part, it is funny. But more on him later when we discuss the fail romance. Yea anticipation, let it build.
Harriet is a geek, ladies and gentlemen. Which means that she is supersmart and interested in obscure stuff and tends to go on for yonks about the lint found in sloth navels. I’m just kidding. She doesn’t do that. She is funny and socially awkward and while I personally don’t believe in labeling people and therefore have not known any one to be explicitly a geek, if you were to take a text book geek and construct her up (if it’s a female of the species) you will most probably end up with Harriet. She has this habit of hiding under the nearest piece of furniture in times of stress and where Harriet’s concerned, these times are many.
To enjoy this novel, you have to suspend your disbelief so far that it’s orbiting star number 3454 in the Milky Way. I’m just saying. But seriously, there are problems with the logistics of this novel. Harriet goes to a photo shoot without any preparation whatsoever and okay, that’s believable but to expect her to walk the runway without any practice at all? Yeah, a tad bit difficult to believe that. There are more such instances of “umm…kaaay?” in the novel but eh, my disbelief was cozying up to star# 3454 and so I was able to ignore my brain’s demand for logic.
I liked that the best friend is actually a person and not a plot point used to move the narrative forward. She matters to Harriet and though the confrontation scene with the bully lacks any confrontation, I like that she and Harriet have the relationship they do.
Okay, now for the fail romance and some extra bit about the geek dude who stalks Harriet. First, this love interest is not developed at all. He is the silhouette of a character. You see a bit of him, he intrigues you (especially since he is a POC) but that’s about it. He’s not present in the narrative for a good length of time so I really don’t understand how (and why) Harriet (of the supposed large intellect) fell for him. Is it his good looks? I thought Harriet being smart would mean that she took some time to get to know a person and that she would understand the difference between infatuation and true loves. Spoiler time! Avert eyes if you don’t want to be spoiled! Then you find out that he is the reason behind Harriet getting chosen as the model. He is the one who pulled the strings and for some reason, that feels grossly wrong to me and not the romantic, oh I got the tinglies deal I’m supposed to be feeling. A man being responsible for the change that occurred in Harriet, the reason she “finds” herself and he, indirectly, giving her the push she needed to move out of the rut she has been in. Way to reinforce patriarchy. Yep.
Also, I get that the stalker dude is funny and I admit I chuckled out loud at his stalkerish ways but I still think that it ought to have been acknowledged at one point or another how wrong the entire thing is. Stalking is not fun or funny and no one should do it with the goal to impress a girl or make her fall in love with you. The only time stalking is okay is if you are a cop and you are hunting down dangerous criminals. And I’m still wondering what the purpose of this character was. He’s the geekier male version of Harriet who is completely in love with him…and she doesn’t even consider him as a potential love interest. Like ever. Hmm. He manifested the parts of her that she didn’t like and accepting him meant accepting herself but if that was the case, the love story would have a different ending (a less fairytale like one) so in the end…he is just there for the comic relief?
All this said and done, I had fun reading this novel. It was amusing and fluffy and even though the romance was just this side of suckage, the parents were great and kooky and the designer was also fun. You may enjoy this if you are looking for brain candy.