Geek Girl by Holly Smale
I must confess, I did judge this book by it’s cover, and even more so once I read it’s blurb which featured the word that is the complete antithesis to Booka Uhu – fashion.
Harriet is a geek. She is such a geek that she can tell you exactly how many muscles you use when you smile and can reel off other (un)fascinating facts at the drop of a hat. She’s got no interest in fashion whatsoever, unlike her best friend Nat who’s wanted to be a model since she was yea high. So how will their friendship fare when klutzy nerd Harriet is offered a modelling contract at a fashion show, whilst Nat is rejected outright by the same fashion maven?
Like I said, I did judge this book well before I started it. I’m not a fashion person – I take delight in looking odd and distinctly non-fashiony. My hair is green, my skin dalmation-esque, my hands witchy and I generally come under ‘short, stocky and stump-like’ as opposed to a model-esque ‘tall, willowy and elegant’. Like I said, I take a weird sort of pleasure in being the exact opposite of a model!
So what was I doing reading Geek Girl? Well, curiosity mainly. I judged the book by it’s cover months before and decided no, it probably wasn’t for me and put it aside to maybe try at a later date. Then I saw people buzzing about it on Twitter. The author Holly Smale came up on my Twitter feed and seemed awfully nice (even if I haven’t yet plucked up the courage to *gasp* message her). People started clamouring for the sequel and I hadn’t even read the first. Curiosity got the better of me and I picked it up, hmmed over the blurb and started to read.
It. Was. Brilliant.
I am a geek. I like Star Trek (and not just any Star Trek, not the cool one with Captain Picard and the not-too-bad rubber masks. Oh no, I like the 1960’s version with polystrene rocks, velour shirts and lizard suits). I would quite happily meet a Lord of the Rings dwarf down the pub. I can quote parts of medieval Germanic sagas at you and then wonder how their romantic lovers compare to Han Solo and Leia. I can, will and have discussed just how much of a prat Obi-Wan can be or whether he’s just naive, and one of my all-time heroes is Harpo Marx. I am a geek, with all the useless and pretty much irrelevant-to-everyday conversation information that come with the title. Importantly though, I could instantly identify with Harriet (even if she doesn’t explicitly like Star Trek) because this book is not a book about fashion.
I know right? Talk about judging a book by its cover, even it’s blurb. I got it completely wrong. What it’s actually about is being truthful, about being upfront, about being honest and fair to the people around you. Oh, and about having a giggle and a wee touch of the old romance too!
I read for characters and Geek Girl did not disappoint – on the contrary it surpassed a lot of other books I’ve read recently and gave me at least three characters I could instantenously love and another two I could fully get behind and admire, if not for the characters themselves then because Smale has written them so beautifully that they feel like proper actual people and not just cardboard cutouts or bland cliches. You know, the ‘I need someone to bounce the main character of off’ character, that doesn’t really need to be or get fleshed out in any real detail themselves. Take for example bully Alexa. She felt like a proper bully, the kind who, unlike in a lot of stories, doesn’t have any real reason to bully Harriet, just like in Real Life bullies don’t always need a reason to pick on someone. Without giving too much away, her ending especially impressed me – so true to life and the more satisfying for it.
Aside from Harriet herself and her father (who is quite possibly one of the best dad’s I’ve read in a while. He’s right up there with the father from Fortunately…the Milk and Danny the Champion of the World), my all-time favourite character is Annabel. She’s possibly edging up into my Literary Heroines list; she is the Yoda to Harriet’s Luke, the Doctor McCoy to Captain Kirk (complete with occasional temper flare), the Splinter to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I love that she never solves Harriet’s problems, just gives her the nudge she needs to see the wood for the trees. She’s sharp, spiky and absolutely splendid as a character and I really want to read more about her in the second book, she was just marvellous.
Aside from my love for all things Annabel, Geek Girl is above all a feel-good story, something of a rarity at the mo with so many dystopian fics coming out (not that there’s neccessarily anything wrong with that, just not usually my cup of tea). It’s not about Harriet finding just how evil and bitchy the fashion industry can be. On the contrary, it’s more of a self-discovery story for Harriet than a book about fashion, with plenty of laughs along the way to lighten the mood. I found myself devouring this book when I’d had trouble for the last few weeks even starting one; it just felt comforting. I could see something of myself in Harriet, even found msyelf mentally saying ‘pshaw! I’ve done/thought worse’ at some of her more awkward moments and I don’t think I’m neccessarily alone in that. You don’t have to be a geek to read this and aside from the random facts, there’s little about Harriet to really set her apart as a geek or cause her audience to raise their eyebrows and wonder which fandom she’s talking about now. She doesn’t alienate the non-geek, in other words.
Like I said at the start, it’s a book that mentions fashion but it’s not actually about fashion. Perhaps because it’s written by someone who actually used to be a model, this book avoids all the cliches and stereotypes I have of fashion (and which at first put me off reading the book). There’s a few bitchy models yes, but otherwise there’s no backstabbing, no hyper-dieting, no angst over dress sizes – it’s refreshing to read about fashion without having to prepare yourself to either be out of your depth, ready to hate the fashionista, or find yourself absolutely depressed about the issue of weight.
Altogether I wish I’d not judged the book by it’s cover, not gone with my instinctual avoidance of the F-word, and read this book earlier. I loved the feel-good factor, I loved the lack of fashion cliches and I especially loved the characters, particularly the wonderful Annabel. Smale is one author whose sequel Model Misfit I WILL be following up on.
Find Geek Girl here daaaarling.