Happy New Year!
I actually read Geek Girl as an ARC two years ago, right before it was released in the UK. Holly Smale was a debut author at that time, and I'm lucky to have "met" her via Twitter, and to have counted her as a Twitter friend ever since.
Now that her book is about to hit American shores, I figured I'd repost my original review, and urge ALL of you to buy this book ASAP. Holly's a hilarious, intelligent writer with impeccable dialogue and descriptions, and you will absolutely LOVE Holly, Harriet and this book!
Hardcover, US, 384 pages
Expected publication: January 27th 2015 by Harper Teen (first published February 1st 2013)
Format read: E-ARC via UK Publisher
Harriet Manners is tired of being labeled a geek. So when she’s discovered by a modeling agent, she seizes the chance to reinvent herself. There’s only one problem: Harriet is the definition of awkward. Does she have what it takes to transform from geek to chic?
Geek Girl is the first book in a hilarious new trilogy. It was also the #1 bestselling YA debut of 2013 in the UK, where it was shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize and won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize for Best Book for Teens. With all the humor and fabulous shenanigans of Louise Rennison’s Confessions of Georgia Nicolson and Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries, Geek Girl is about to become an international superstar.
Geek Girl's protagonist is fifteen-year-old Harriet Manners, a geek in every sense of the word. She's the type of person where if you randomly bring up something - say, a question on what you should feed your dog - will not only give you statistics on dog food, but properly the fifty best places to buy them.
(Random example, I know.)
While Harriet's generally pretty proud of the fact she's a geek, she also struggles with the fact that people don't like her. Things come to a head when the resident school Mean Girl Alexa, bullies everyone else into saying they don't like her.
So when Harriet's offered an opportunity to join one of the top modeling agencies in London, she goes for it. She sees this is as her opportunity to reinvent herself, and become someone that's worlds away from her geek reputation. However, on the way to achieving (minor) model stardom, Harriet realizes that she can't just leave her home life behind.
Things that worked:
On a whole, the book moves along at a very quick pace. We're thrown into Harriet's modeling prospects (career?) almost immediately. There is very little time wasted in introducing the characters, or unnecessary plot description.
Holly Smale did a good job of balancing both the modeling world characters and Harriet's home life, while also weaving in other story lines too. I enjoyed watching how things balanced out/played out.
If I had to summarize my views of the characters in three words, it would probably be something along the lines of : quirky, good fun.
Smale's characters were all developed with a British humor and sensibility that this American really appreciated. They were witty, self-deprecating and didn't take themselves too seriously. After reading a LOT of YAs where characters were either mopey, and/or had completely unreasonable, or absent parents, I liked the fact that Harriet and her friends and family were so no-nonsense about everything.
Honorable mention has to go to Wilbur (with a BUR! not a IAM!) and Annabel. Wilbur was hilarious, and Annabel's brisk but humorous attitude cracked me up. I adored the fact that Annabel was both serious, but had quirks - e.g. her visit to the launderette.
Smale writes in a very British sort of way. It's lyrical, but self-deprecation also exists in every paragraph that she writes. It's very easy to read, but may be a bit off-putting to younger YA readers who are picking up her work for the first time.
Things to consider:
Second, thanks to lots of talking, Harriet is back on good terms with Nat, has made peace with her stalker, gotten the boy, and also content with being a geek. While the idea that most of Harriet's problems aren't as dramatic as she believes is very true to life - teenagers often think the world is ending when it's not - having things solved so easily, seems a bit too…easy.
However, the characters are SO likable, I know that I'll definitely be back.
Smale has a strong, distinctive voice, and I'm looking forward to whatever she writes next. I strongly recommend this to anyone looking for a delightful, fun read.
About the author:
Holly Smale was unexpectedly spotted by a top London modeling agency at the age of fifteen and spent the following two years falling over on catwalks and breaking things she couldn’t afford to replace. By the time she had graduated from Bristol University with a BA in English literature and an MA in Shakespeare, she had given up modeling and set herself on the path to becoming a full-time blogger and writer. Holly lives in London, England. Follow her on Twitter @holsmale.