2 April 2017

Review - Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Image from http://www.quirkbooks.com
Ashley Poston
Quirk Books, 4 April 2017
PB, 319pp, e-book

I'm grateful to the publisher for an advance copy of this book.

Geekerella is, as the title suggests, something of a hymn to geekdom and the fan community, in the form of a retelling of Cinderella.

Elle Wittimer is an orphan, living with her stepmother (the 'stepmonster' as she describes her) and stepsisters, who, of course, treat her badly.

Spending the summer working in a vegan snack van, The Magic Pumpkin, and caring for Frank, the sad dachshund next door who's neglected by his banker owner, Elle lives for the classic SF show Starfield, which as you'll recall is up there alongside Star Trek and BSG in the canon. (I'm joking. Piston made Starfield up. But as she describes the adventures of Prince Carmindor and Princess Amara, complete with episode rundowns, analysis and criticism, you'll believe it's real. It should be real. Somebody, make this show!)

There's excitement in the fan community as a new Starfield film is to be made, but trepidation that it'll not respect the source material - turnbing into horror that Carmindor is to be played by Darien Freeman, teen heartthrob of TV series Sea Cove who can't be a true geek, even if he does have incredible abs...

Reeling from this news, and crushed by her awful stepfamily, Elle finds escape in texting with a random stranger as a result of which she forms plan to run away, attend the annual  ExcelsiCon and enter the cosplay contest. But she can't sew a costume, she's under constant scrutiny and she has no way to get to Atlanta. What is she to do?

At the same time, Darien struggles to prove himself as a "real" actor on the set of the new film. he, too, has a bullying figure in his life - in his case his father/ manager - and secrets that make it awkward for him to be playing this new role.

Told through chapters focussing on Elle or Darien, this is a smart, funny and tender story, giving a good sense of the warmth and solidarity of fan culture - I'm thinking of one particular scene that almost had me in tears, you'll know it when you reach it - as well as its darker moments (with Elle accused at one point of being a 'fake geek girl'). It's also a moving portrayal of a very lonely girl and of how she sustains herself through some dark times. The picture  of stepmother Catherine isn't wholly negative either - she emerges as quite a rounded character, not a boo! hiss! villain - and the book also has quite a bit to say about celebrity culture.

I have to be honest and say you'll probably get most out of this if you know at least a bit about fandom, but I don't think you have to actually be a cosplaying con-goer or writer of fic to follow Posten's story. It is, at its heart, a very universal, very tender and very human story to which anyone should be able to relate.

Strongly recommended - so:

Look to the stars.



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